Photo: Fruits and Vegetables in the Shape of a Heart

by Tracy Ternes

Incorporate these foods into your diet to help reduce your risk of heart disease and promote cardiovascular health.


Oatmeal


A steaming bowl of oatmeal is the perfect way to start your day. Oats are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium, and soluble fiber. For added heart health, top your oatmeal with ground flaxseed and blueberries. For a sweet treat that’s also good for your heart, bake some delicious oatmeal raisin cookies.


Avocado


Avocados have high amounts of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while raising HDL (good cholesterol) levels. They also contain significant levels of potassium and folate, two nutrients that support heart-health.1 Including a few slices of avocado in your salad not only tastes great, but increases your body’s ability to absorb the health-promoting cartenoids that other vegetables provide.


Berries


A recent study from Finland found that that eating a moderate amount of berries may increase HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. The high levels of antioxidants in berries, known as polyphenols, are believed to contribute to this increase in heart health. In the Finnish study, participants ate a variety of berries including strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, lingonberries, black currants, and chokeberries. Don’t forget blueberries when making your smoothies – blueberries are another delicious and antioxidant-rich berry.2


Spinach


Spinach contains high amounts of lutein, folate, potassium and fiber. Other leafy greens such as kale, chard, arugula, and collard greens are also great choices to reduce your risk of heart disease.3 Make sure to include a variety of greens in your salads, on your sandwiches and in your soups.


Legumes


Satisfy your daily dose of fiber, plus Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and soluble fiber with legumes. Choose from lentils, chickpeas, black and kidney beans to name a few. Top a salad with legumes, make a burrito, add them to soup or eat them alone. A well-rounded, plant-based diet is sure to include the above-mentioned heart healthy foods. Try to include them in your meals whenever possible, experimenting with a variety of recipes whenever you can. With proper planning, every meal can include at least one of these powerfully healthy ingredients and help you on your journey to better health.

Footnotes: 
  1. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5
  2. Erlund, Iris, et al. Favorable effects of berry consumption on platelet function, blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol. Am J Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 87, No. 2, 323-331, February 2008
  3. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/23/best.foods.for.your.heart/index.html