12 Foods to Eat for a Healthier Ticker

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12 Foods to Eat for a Healthier Ticker

By Becky Hand, MS, Licensed and Registered Dietitian
Stop focusing on all the foods you can't have, and start adding more of these healthful and delicious foods to your meals. Eating for a healthier heart never tasted so good!


Salmon and Other Fatty Fish

These coldwater fish are one of the richest sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats can decrease your risk of arrhythmias, reduce your triglyceride levels, decrease blood pressure and slow the formation of plaque in your blood vessels. Enjoy at least two servings of fish weekly, preferably fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, and lake trout. For more tips on picking the healthiest types of fish, click here.

Serving Tip: Grill salmon and glaze lightly with your favorite BBQ sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

15-Minute Fish Recipes

Flaxseed

These tiny seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, too, as well as fiber and phytoestrogens called lignans—all which can benefit your heart. Make sure you use ground flaxseed and store the package in your refrigerator to prevent those healthy fats from going bad. A little goes a long way and you only need about 1-2 teaspoons daily. Learn more about flaxseed.

Serving Tip: Sprinkle ground flaxseed on hot breakfast cereal, add it to smoothies, or mix it into casseroles and meatloaf.

Recipes That Feature Flax

Oats

The soluble fiber found in oats is especially good at binding with cholesterol and reducing its absorption in your body. It therefore helps to lower your total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in beans, barley, lentils, apples, citrus fruit and squash.

Serving Tip: To beat the morning rush, try Crockpot oatmeal! And if your oatmeal is starting to feel a little bland, try one of these 20 stir-in ideas to revitalize your breakfast!

Beans

This "musical fruit" is magical for your heart thanks to its soluble fiber content. A 1/2-cup serving contains 6-7 grams of total fiber (1-3 grams of which is soluble fiber). One USDA Agricultural Research study found that consuming just 1/2 cup of beans daily could help lower total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol in healthy people and individuals with an increased risk of heart disease. So enjoy 3-5 servings each week.

Serving Tip: No time to cook up a batch, don’t worry. Use your favorite canned variety, just drain and rinse for 1 minute under tap water to remove up to 40% of the sodium. Then add them to your favorite soup or casserole; or top of your lunch-time salad.

More tips for cooking, using, and enjoying beans

Nuts

Go nuts! Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts--all nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce your unhealthy LDL cholesterol level. Nuts have also been shown to promote the feeling of fullness when trying to lose weight. However, portion size is the key. Enjoy a 1-ounce portion (a small handful about the size of a golf ball) 3-5 times a week.

Serving Tip: Choose unsalted nuts whenever possible. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of your yogurt, breakfast cereal or salad, or coat baked fish or chicken with a layer of coarsely ground nuts.

Soy

Soy protein has been shown to be effective in decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Enjoy up to 2 servings daily to obtain the recommended 25 grams of soy protein from soymilk, tofu, edamame, roasted soy nuts or tempeh.

Serving Tip: There are so many ways to enjoy soy, there everyone is bound to find a soy food he or she finds delicious! Tofu doesn't have to be scary, either. Here's how to prepare it.

Tasty Tofu Recipes

Dark Leafy Greens

Spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy and other dark, leafy greens are filled with the antioxidant lutein. Preliminary research indicates this carotenoid may protect against plaque buildup and prevent clogging of the arteries. Plus, these leafy greens also provide the body with fiber, folate, potassium and calcium, which all promote heart health.

Serving Tip: Go green! Try a green smoothie for breakfast or afternoon snack.

Green Tea

Research indicates that green tea may help to reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol levels, while increasing your HDL "good" cholesterol. The catechins found in tea appear to hamper the body’s inflammatory response as well. Can you say, tea time? Enjoy up to 4-5 cups daily.

Serving Tip: To receive the benefit of green tea, brew your own. Bottled varieties contain very little antioxidants.

Dark Chocolate

Next time you need a chocolate fix, reach for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa. Researchers have discovered that the flavonoids in cocoa may help to thin your blood and benefit your cardiovascular health, as well as reduce inflammation. As always, moderation is the key. Enjoy about 3/4 ounce of dark chocolate, 3 times a week and balance your intake to avoid excess calories and weight gain.

Serving Tip: Mix up a batch of trail mix using a whole grain cereal, raisins, nuts and dark chocolate chips. Portion it into small containers for a convenient and inexpensive snack on the go!

Dark Chocolate Dessert Recipes

Tomatoes

Considerable evidence suggests that lycopene, the bright-red carotenoid found in red foods (tomatoes, carrots, watermelons, red grapefruits, and papayas), may play an active role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes and tomato products, including ketchup, tomato juice, and tomato sauce are the richest sources of lycopene; these concentrated tomato products also provide vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium, all of which benefit the heart.

Serving Tip: For a quick and healthy dinner, try this Tomato, Spinach and Feta Pizza. Now that’s pizza with pizzazz!

Low-Fat Dairy Products

Numerous studies are showing that dairy products, when consumed appropriately, can benefit the heart. It appears that dairy products and fermented dairy products like yogurt can help lower blood pressure and improve your lipid profile. But the key is to select varieties that are lower in saturated fat: skim or 1% milk, nonfat yogurt, and low-fat cheeses. These foods are packed with calcium, protein and much-needed vitamin D. Aim for 2-3 servings daily.

Serving Tip: Whip up a delicious smoothie using 6 oz of nonfat yogurt, 3/4 cup skim milk, 10 frozen strawberries, and 1 banana. Enjoy for breakfast or as a snack. Leftovers can be frozen into pops for a great frozen treat!

Olive Oil

It’s a common misconception that all fat is bad for your heart. In fact, the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and olives can help your heart by lowering your bad cholesterol level. Still, keep your total fat intake to 25-35% of your calories each day.

Serving Tip: Sauté those colorful vegetables in 1 teaspoon of olive oil OR mix up your favorite salad dressing using olive oil and a flavored vinegar.

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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HINASIF

3/25/2012 6:12:17 PM

Very informative ... many thanks

DONNASEEFEE

3/25/2012 5:39:03 PM

Thank you. I needed to see them all together.

VXWALL1942

3/25/2012 12:40:53 AM

VXWALL1942's SparkPage
Thanks!

GODDREAMDIVA1

3/24/2012 11:01:55 PM

GODDREAMDIVA1's SparkPage
Thank u

AZURE-SKY

3/24/2012 8:12:49 PM

The body needs fat in the diet to absorb certain nutrients from the rest of the foods we eat. So healthy fat choices include olive oil, canola oil, fatty fish such as salmon, nuts.

INDIANAMIKE

3/24/2012 7:20:17 PM

Olive oil is not a health food. It's 100% fat. Neither is salmon a health food, for that matter. While it has omega 3s, it also has cholesterol and other bad stuff, such as mercury. Read Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's book on preventing and reversing heart disease. It's really simple. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Avoid all animal proteins and extracted oils.

NADS1959

3/24/2012 7:16:26 PM

NADS1959's SparkPage
I must be really healthy then

GRACECAMEL

3/24/2012 6:43:55 PM

GRACECAMEL's SparkPage
10.5 out of 12, leafy greens - must try harder :)

10SLADY

3/24/2012 3:39:05 PM

10SLADY's SparkPage
I eat all of those except flax seed, but I can add that in.

KYLEIGH716

3/24/2012 3:16:31 PM

KYLEIGH716's SparkPage
Choose organic soy if consuming soy products, 93% of non-organic soy in our food supply is genetically modified. Please be careful!

http://responsibletechnology.org

WENDIGAYLE

3/24/2012 3:16:20 PM

I eat 10 of those mentioned.

CARDAMOMMA

3/24/2012 1:03:40 PM

CARDAMOMMA's SparkPage
A big bowl of oatmeal with blueberries is my daily breakfast. Most days, I eat too many carbs according the SP nutrition tracker, but most of them come from the big bowl of oatmeal, so I think it's a fine trade-off.

2BDYNAMIC

3/24/2012 12:04:49 PM

2BDYNAMIC's SparkPage
Noticed commentary by RAWORGANICVEGAN .................. Right on re the Green drinks, i.e. green smoothies and nixie on the animal proteins! In December my husband and I purchased a wonderful blender (Vitamix) ................. We got started on the green drinks ............ EVERY weekday morning! Now we can't live without them ............ It completely CURED the 'want' for any sugary food or drink .................. It brings plenty of energy, and so much more. (Use Kale, spinach, a banana, blueberries and have lots of variety! .................... Jan

SWEESIN

3/24/2012 10:25:19 AM

SWEESIN's SparkPage
RAWORGANICVEGAN- you are not totally correct in your summation of the lack of dangers to your health. I do know that most vegans are very religiously adamant in their beliefs. I am a flexitarian and use controlled portions. Please read the attached article with all the comments. Because we are each chemical beings, our chemical needs are different. Learn to listen to your body!
http://agingboomersblog.com/vegan-diet-d
angers

LIZABAKER

3/24/2012 9:19:54 AM

Woohooo! I regularly eat 11 out of 12 - just can't abide green tea. The only one I would quibble with, though, is the lowfat dairy - I have found whole dairy to be much more healthful - switched to whole dairy and immediately noticed a decrease in joint pain. BUT I eat very little dairy, so take that advice w/ a grain of salt if you're used to downing multiple glasses of milk a day.

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