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National Heart Health Month: Top Foods for Heart Health

By: Alissa Palladino, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-CPT
Lifestyle factors such as physical activity, stress, sleep, smoking and nutrition play a big role in keeping your heart healthy.  
In honor of national heart health month, I am sharing some top foods that promote heart health. You can boost your cardiovascular health this February and all year long by incorporating these heart-healthy foods into your diet.

  1. Nuts & Seeds – From almonds and walnuts to chia and flax, nuts and seeds are naturally great sources of heart-healthy, unsaturated fat plus fiber. These two nutrients keep your heart healthy by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Nuts and seeds also contain magnesium, a mineral involved in heart contraction and blood pressure regulation.
    • Top your salad, yogurt or cereal with chopped walnuts or pecans
    • Enjoy a handful of cashews, almonds or pistachios for a satisfying snack
    • Add chia or ground flax seeds to baked goods, oatmeal, and smoothies
  2. Oats – Like all whole grains, oats promote heart health due to their high fiber content. Oats are especially high in a type of soluble fiber called beta glucan, which is associated with decreased LDL cholesterol and lower risk for heart attack and stroke.
    • Enjoy oats hot or cold for breakfast
    • Use in baked goods recipes to replace some refined flour
    • Toast along with nuts, dried fruit and honey or maple syrup to make your own granola
  3. Beans & Legumes – Unlike animal protein sources, beans and legumes provide plant-based protein with zero saturated fat. (High intakes of saturated fat are associated with increased LDL cholesterol and heart disease.) They are also excellent source of fiber, magnesium, potassium and other heart-healthy nutrients.
    • Roast chickpeas in the oven with a little olive oil, herb and spices for a crunchy snack
    • Use kidney, navy or cannellini beans in a vegetarian chili or minestrone soup
    • Combine black beans, corn and rice for a meatless Mexican-style meal
  4. Fatty Fish - Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are excellent protein sources that are low in saturated fat and high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Grill or bake fish along with veggies and potatoes for simple, balanced dinner
    • Enjoy raw salmon in sushi
    • Add canned tuna to a salad or in a wrap for an easy, protein-packed lunch
  5. Fruits & Vegetables: While all produce is packed with heart-healthy fiber plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, those high in potassium are particularly beneficial for your heart. Bananas, potatoes, melon, oranges, spinach and broccoli top the list for potassium content, a mineral that helps reduce blood pressure and is essential for heart contraction.
    • Fresh fruit and raw veggies make great snacks any time of day
    • Throw spinach and a variety of fruit into your morning smoothie
    • Roast white or sweet potatoes with a little olive oil
    • Blend frozen bananas for a potassium-rich, naturally sweet ice cream alternative

Want more ideas? Our blog is full of recipes featuring these heart-healthy ingredients such as Overnight Oats, Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins, Lentil Sloppy Joes, Quinoa and Black Bean Salad, Sweet Potato Fries and Maple Pecan Energy Bites.
Alissa is a Registered Dietitian at Good Measure Meals where she helps people achieve their health and fitness goals through individual nutrition counseling. A veggie lover and avid runner, she believes the best form of exercise is the one you enjoy and the best nutrition plan is one that fits into your lifestyle. For information about nutrition consultations, meal plans, and more healthy recipes and tips visit www.goodmeasuremeals.com 
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