Photo: Brocoli

February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Hawaii, but don't despair! The good news is that most heart disease is preventable, and you don't have to make huge changes to lower your risk. A few simple tweaks to your diet can make a wonderful difference. Here are 10 heart-healthy foods that could save your life:

  1. Broccoli - Broccoli is a great vegetable containing sulforaphane, which encourages production of enzymes that protect your blood vessels and make your heart healthy enough to broc 'n' roll!
  2. Oranges - Vitamin C is a well-proven enemy of oxidative damage to the heart. Orange you glad the vitamin C concentration in oranges is super high?
  3. Blueberries - The anthocyanins in blueberries help reduce oxidative stress. Blueberries also help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke! Our hearts love them berry much.
  4. Avocados - Researchers believe that adding an avocado a day to a heart-healthy diet can help improve LDL levels in people who are overweight or obese. Avocadoes are full of powerful antioxidants and a broad spectrum of vitamins. As the darling of the produce section, they're everything our hearts avo' wanted. 
  5. Watermelon - Watermelon has the highest concentration of lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable, which helps fight heart disease and various types of cancer. It truly is one in a melon. 
  6. Edamame - Yes, it's a fact! This popular pupu offers awesome benefits for your heart and is great for edamommy, edadaddy, and the whole family! It's high in fiber, an important nutrient in maintaining heart health and blood pressure levels. 
  7. Lentils - Research suggests that the magnesium found in lentils is linked to a decreased chance of heart attack and stroke. Other cardioprotective functions provided by the nutrients in lentils include a decreased chance of everything from cancer to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's. Lentils may be pulses, but they don't set our pulses racing. 
  8. Walnuts - Walnuts are a good source of heart-healthy alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Research suggests that walnuts support a healthy heart in a variety of ways, including helping heart arrhythmias and reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal. Eat a couple a day, and your heart walnut fail. 
  9. Quinoa - Compared to grains like wheat, quinoa is higher in fat content and provides useful amounts of heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid. Recent studies have shown that quinoa doesn't get oxidized as rapidly as expected even with its higher fat content. We're really quinoa on it. 
  10. Kale - One serving of kale contains 121 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, with 500 milligrams being the recommended daily intake. Other good nutrients in kale like fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and C also help support heart health. Our hearts are so crazy for it, it won't kale them. 

Heart-healthy meals should be centered around fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Our hearts "beet" for healthy food, so be sure to regularly include these ingredients, which research shows are healthiest for your heart!