While heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America, individuals are trying to find more ways to improve their diets to lower their cardiovascular risk. One in three adults has some form of heart disease. A common misconception is that following a heart healthy diet means eating bland foods. Who says heart healthy eating has to be tasteless? Research shows that a little bit of dark chocolate and red wine in moderation can go a long way in fighting against heart disease.
SUPER FOODS THAT PROTECT YOUR HEART:
Dark chocolate: Some studies report that small amounts of dark chocolate can keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Choose dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa to pack in the flavanoids, which are antioxidants that protect our cells from damage. Don’t forget the portion size though! A serving of chocolate is eight squares or the size of a package of floss, not the entire bar!
Red Wine: Red wine has been found to lower the risk of coronary heart disease with the high concentration of antioxidants found in the skins and seeds of the grape. However if you want to reduce your risk of heart disease you don’t have to necessarily start drinking. There are other sources of antioxidant rich foods similar to those found in wine including red grapes, blueberries, deep green veggies, and peppers. Since heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to a number of health risks and can raise the level of some fats (triglycerides) in the bloodstream, drink in moderation. If you are going to drink wine, no more than one to two, five-ounce glasses per day is the recommended level.
Salmon: Fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to lower triglycerides, a type of fat found in the bloodstream. Eat two, four-ounce servings of fatty fish each week. You can also top salads with a handful of walnuts or use canola or flaxseed oil in dressings to pack in other sources of omega-3 fats. Be sure your flaxseed is ground since your body will not digest the beneficial fats if the seed is whole.
Plant Stanols & Sterols: You might be scratching your head right about now wondering why you’ve been seeing a number of products out on the shelves recently with the words, “plant stanols and sterols.” What are they? Plant stanols and sterols are naturally occurring compounds found in plant cells. So why are they being added to foods? Recent studies have found that eating foods with these compounds may reduce your risk of heart disease. Look for products such as such as Benecol®, Minute Maid Heart Wise®, or Promise Active Super Shots ® to attack those LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
Soy Foods: The link between soy foods and heart health is so strong that the FDA has approved a health claim on food labels for products with at least 6.5 grams of soy protein that are also low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Not only does soy play a role in heart disease prevention, it is packed with B vitamins and essential fatty acids, including some omega-3s. Sprinkle soy protein crumbles in spaghetti sauce or use as a meat substitute in chili. Steamed edemame, tofu, and soy milk are also sources of soy protein.
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