The month of February marks an important month that brings awareness to the health of our hearts. American Heart Month is one of my favorite health “awareness” months, because it focuses on what we put in our bodies and the effect some foods have on our overall health.
Today I want to share some of my favorite heart healthy foods to start incorporating into your diet; I don’t think this will be a big challenge as they’re all delicious!
Below are 10 Simple Heart Healthy Foods to incorporate into your diet to show your heart and body some extra love.
- Whole foods: Keep it low-sodium by opting for low-sodium and reduced sodium options if purchasing processed food products. The optimal choice is to choose whole food sources as much as possible as these don’t contain any added sodium nor are they processed. Keep in mind: closer to nature = less sodium and processing.
- Oatmeal: when choosing carbohydrates, choose whole grains that are a true whole food (i.e. if you read the ingredients you’ll know exactly what that food is and where it came from). Oatmeal is a great heart healthy carbohydrate as it contains fiber, magnesium, potassium, calcium, folate and niacin! Another favorite of mine is sweet potatoes!
- Chia seeds: chia seeds are a great source of minerals, healthy fats (including omega-3 fats), protein, and fiber. The fiber contained in chia seeds is soluble meaning it forms a “gel” which is great for keeping our digestion moving along and has been shown to help decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol.
- Berries: berries such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries all contain high amounts of antioxidants, which fight inflammation.
- Proteins: farm fresh eggs or other types of lean protein are a great heart healthy option (such as chicken, wild caught fish, beans, tempeh, hemp seeds, etc.). Don’t fear the egg yolk, yes egg yolks contain cholesterol, but egg yolks also contain minerals and nutrients. Be sure to balance your overall cholesterol intake and simple carbohydrate intake for heart health.
- Beans/legumes: Beans and lentils are great sources of fiber; they’re low in fat, contain protein, and nutrients such as magnesium, copper, and folate.
- Avocado: not only do avocados contain healthy fats, fiber, and taste amazing; avocados are also a rich source of potassium! Eating potassium rich foods helps our bodies get rid of excess sodium. Potassium is needed in balance with sodium and magnesium in our bodies to keep our hearts and bones healthy
- Walnuts: not only are walnuts a great source of fiber and plant-protein, walnuts also contain heart healthy fats, mainly in the form of omega-3 fatty acids and mono-and polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats have been shown to help decrease cholesterol, inflammation, and overall heart health. Walnuts also contain magnesium, vitamin E, folate, and phytosterols.
- Cruciferous veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and spinach all have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. They contain fiber, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, all of which help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Plant-based 1 day/week: Studies have shown those who practice a plant-based lifestyle, whether vegetarian, vegan or some variation of vegetarianism have lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, lower BMI, and general more intake of nutrients and antioxidants. Go meatless 1 day/week and give it a try!
I challenge each of you to add at least 1 of these foods into your diet on a daily basis and soon increasing it to all foods more frequently or even better, daily!
What’s your favorite food on this list and how do you use it for your heart health?
Eat well, live well, be well,
McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN