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Healthy foods for your heart

In addition to regular cardiovascular exercise and quitting tobacco use, making heart healthy diet choices is an important action that will reduce your risk of heart disease.  Making your diet heart healthy doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Here’s how you get started.

Fish: Fish is a  great source of protein (and it’s not high in saturated fat like some fatty meats people usually turn to). Fish is also full omega-3 fatty acids– which benefits the heart whether you’re healthy or at high risk of cardiovascular disease.  While fish oil supplements are popular, the American Heart Association does not consider them a sufficient replacement for eating fish.

Nuts: Talk about an easy food to incorporate into your diet! Eat a handful plain, toss them in a salad, add to the top of yogurt, or spread in butter form. Nuts are power-packed with so many good things! Your heart goes nuts for nuts because they’re full of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Green Veggies: Low-fat and low-calorie; increased fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You already know that green vegetables are good for you. What you may not know is that it’s a lot easier to add veggies to your diet than you think!  (And you’re in luck — The American Heart Association says “all produce counts” toward your recommended 4-5 servings per day. So canned, dried, fresh, and frozen are all options!)

Fruit: Fruit is probably the easiest of these heart-healthy foods to get into your diet, right?  Well, it needs to be the right kind of fruit. While canned veggies are usually good to go, many canned fruits are in heavy syrup — look for fruits canned in water or natural juice. Prefer to drink your fruit? Try a smoothie! Be wary of fruit juice, however — it may contain less “real fruit” than advertised. As always, everything in moderation — some fruits are jam-packed with lots of (natural) sugars that are great for your body in small doses but not-so-great if taken overboard.

Berries: Yeah, we already did fruit — but berries are healthy superfoods deserving of a whole separate category! If you’re going about this from a scientific perspective, berries are high in antioxidants and polyphenols. Translation = They help fight cancer and chronic diseases.  A recent study even suggests that more berries = less chance of heart attack. Sign us up! Sprinkle them in your yogurt, toss a handful in a smoothie, or eat handfuls as a snack.

While some superfoods specifically benefit your cardiovascular system, your overall approach to eating for a healthy heart is as simple as emphasizing whole, real foods.  Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and electrolytes that support healthy cardiovascular function.  Lean proteins, such as poultry and fish, will fill you up without leading to the insulin spikes that spell disaster for your metabolism and blood sugar.  In other good news, heart healthy eating no longer means emphasizing low fat over flavor.  Current recommendations provide a greater emphasis on the types of fats, especially limiting transfats and overly processed foods.

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