10 foods to help protect your heart

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of people in the United States, but there are things you can do to prevent it.

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of people in the United States, but there are things you can do to prevent it. Eating wholesome foods is a simple lifestyle change that can make a huge difference to your heart. These ten superfoods contain heart-healthy nutrients to help protect your heart.

1. Salmon. Salmon, along with other fatty fish, contains a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week. Use a low-sodium marinade and grill or pan-roast your fish. Serve with fresh vegetables or over a salad or pasta.

2. Oatmeal. Oatmeal is high in fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. When you’re choosing oatmeal, head for the old-fashioned oats or quick-cooking oats — steel-cut is even better. Avoid instant oatmeal. Top your oatmeal with fresh berries for a heart-healthy breakfast.

3. Legumes. Beans, lentils and peas are excellent sources of protein without a lot of fat. One study found that people who ate legumes at least four times a week had a 22 percnet lower risk of heart disease compared to those who ate them less than once a week. Legumes may also help control blood sugar for those living with diabetes. Add legumes to soups, stews, chili, salads, pastas or serve as a side dish to any meal.

4. Nuts. Varieties such as almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts and pistachios contain good-for-your-heart fiber and vitamin E, which help lower bad cholesterol. Some nuts, like walnuts, are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Look for varieties without a lot of added salt.

5. Blueberries. A recent study showed that women ages 25 to 42 who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to those who at less. Blueberries provide vitamin C and antioxidants (anthocyanins, flavonoids) that may help decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Eat blueberries in cereal, with oatmeal, in a salad, with yogurt or just as a healthy snack.

6. Green vegetables. Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables … and she was right. Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale and other leafy greens are packed with vitamins, iron and folic acid. Steam broccoli and add a squeeze of lemon juice or olive oil for a heart-healthy side dish. And for those greens, give them a quick sauté with lemon or orange juice or make soup by puréeing them with a little low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and white beans.

7. Sweet potatoes. Antioxidants found in sweet potatoes help shield our hearts and the taters also contain vitamins C and E, potassium, calcium and fiber. Try roasting them and topping with a little brown sugar for a satisfying side dish or mash them as a replacement for white potatoes.

8. Asparagus. A low-calorie food, asparagus contains heart-healthy anti- nflammatory nutrients such as folate and vitamins C and D. Grill or steam and drizzle with olive oil and lemon for a pretty side dish. Add leftovers to a salad for the lunch the next day.

9. Oranges. Oranges and other citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, provide flavonoids (an antioxidant), which can help lower your risk for ischemic stroke. Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Grapefruits are a great heart-healthy breakfast choice and oranges are a satisfying afternoon snack.

10. Tomatoes. Tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium and are a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help reduce “bad” cholesterol, keep blood vessels open and lower heart attack risk. Tomatoes are easy to add to your diet — think salads, soups, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, breakfast and more.


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