Heart-Healthy Superfoods

Heart-healthy eating isn’t about following a complicated set of rules; it’s about filling your plate with a wide variety of good-for-you foods. But can the choices you make today help compensate for some not-so-wise picks from your past (pizza and soda throughout college sound familiar)? [17]These six foods are just the beginning of a meal strategy that helps support your heart-health goals. Use them as a starting point for your own better-eating action plan.

Almonds

Heart-healthy benefit: Helps support healthy cholesterol profiles. [7, 15]

How they work: While the mechanism is not clearly defined, various studies have shown that eating a certain amount of almonds each day can help to alter blood lipid profiles by reducing LDL cholesterol to varying degrees. [7,15]

Put them to use: Choose raw, unsalted almonds whenever possible. Add them to salads and yogurt as a topping; toast sliced almonds and serve atop baked fish.

Dark Chocolate

Heart-healthy benefit: Helps support healthy blood pressure. [12]

How it works: Cocoa contains compounds called flavanols, which may improve blood vessel flexibility. We can get them from some chocolate with a few squares a day. Certain dark chocolates are likely to have more flavanols than the milk chocolate varieties, because it starts with a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate. [12]

Put it to use: If you like a little sugar with your coffee, try melting a small square of chocolate into your next cup in lieu of the granulated stuff. The key to gaining the health benefits of chocolate is not to overindulge, as many chocolate-containing foods (think cookies and cakes) are also high in fat and sugar, which may negate its heart-helping qualities. [12]

 

Kale

Heart-healthy benefit: May help support healthy blood vessels. [9]

How it works: Kale boasts heart-healthy antioxidants, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin E. [8] It also contains lutein,[9] one of those uber-healthy carotenoids, which have a number of functions in health and well-being, including cardiovascular health. [9]

Put it to use: Lightly sauté in olive oil with sliced onions and mushrooms; toss it with olive oil and roast until just crisp.

Oats

Heart-healthy benefit: Support healthy cholesterol. [5,6]

How they work: The soluble fiber beta-glucan, which is found in oats helps to lower LDL cholesterol and overall cholesterol levels. [5,6]

Put them to use: Oats are typically thought of as a breakfast food, but tasty high-fiber cereals, like Kellogg’s FiberPlus® Cinnamon Oat Crunch, are super-portable and can make a great afternoon snack or post-dinner treat that satisfies your sweet tooth. [16]

Red Wine

Heart-healthy benefit: May help boost HDL cholesterol. [10]

How it works: Any alcohol nudges up HDL, which helps support healthy arteries. But red wine may offer additional benefits: Compounds called polyphenols may help keep blood vessels flexible and reduce the risk of unwanted clotting. Increasing alcohol consumption for the purposes of cardio protection, however, is not justified. [10]

Put it to use: The heart-health benefits come from small portions — one 5-ounce glass is all you need. In fact, more than one glass of vino a day ups the risk of breast cancer for women, [11] and chronic heavy drinking damages the heart. [10] Although no formal recommendations for light alcohol consumption have been made, the American Heart Association recommends that alcohol use be an item of discussion between physician and patient. If you don’t already drink wine, health experts say this benefit is not a good reason to start, as there are other foods and behaviors (such as regular exercise) that will help protect your heart. [10]

Sardines

Heart-healthy benefit: May help support healthy blood lipids. [13]

How they work: The omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish support heart health, and sardines have among the highest levels. These good fats have been associated with lower harmful triglycerides and increased protective HDL cholesterol. [13,14]

Put them to use: Try them diced into a salad or as a topping on snack crackers; chefs have also begun grilling sardines for sandwiches, and even pizza toppings. If the taste of sardines just isn’t for you, consider trying another fatty fish, like salmon. [13,14]

SOURCES:

1. Anderson ALHarris TBTylavsky FAPerry SEHouston DKHue TFStrotmeyer ESSahyoun NRHealth ABC Study

Dietary patterns and survival of older adults.

J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jan;111(1):84-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.012.

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

2. American Heart Association: Eat Better

http://mylifecheck.heart.org/multitab.aspx?navid=10&culturecode=en-us

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Nutritional and Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits

http://www.fao.org/docrep/x2650t/x2650t03.htm

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

4. Morris RC Jr, Schmidlin O, Frassetto LA, Sebastian A.

Relationship and interaction between sodium and potassium.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Jun;25(3 Suppl):262S-270S

http://www.jacn.org/content/25/suppl_3/262S.long

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

5. Jiezhong Chen, Kenneth Raymond

Beta-glucans in the treatment of diabetes and associated cardiovascular risks

Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2008 December; 4(6): 1265–1272.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2663451/pdf/VHRM-4-1265.pdf

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/31/13—TLS

6. Thomas MS Wolever, Alison L Gibbs, Jennie Brand-Miller, Alison M Duncan, Valerie Hart, Benoît Lamarche, Susan M Tosh, Ruedi Duss

Bioactive oat β-glucan reduces LDL cholesterol in Caucasians and non-Caucasians

Nutr J. 2011; 10: 130. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252259/?report=classic

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7. Mayo Clinic: Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085/METHOD=print

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

8. USDA Database: Kale

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2969?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=kale

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9. Lutein and zeaxanthin and their potential roles in disease prevention.

Ribaya-Mercado JD, Blumberg JB.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):567S-587S. Review.

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10.Circulation: Red Wine and Your Heart

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/111/2/e10.full

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/31/13—TLS

11. American Cancer Society: What are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer:

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-risk-factors

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

12. Cleveland Clinic: Heart Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/31/13—TLS

13.  University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 fatty acids

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/31/13—TLS

14. Omega 3 fatty acids

http://medicine.tufts.edu/Education/Academic-Departments/Clinical-Departments/Public-Health-and-Community-Medicine/Nutrition-and-Infection-Unit/Research/Nutrition-and-Health-Topics/Omega-3-Fatty-Acids

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15. Berryman CEPreston AGKarmally WDeckelbaum RJKris-Etherton PM.

Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions.

Nutr Rev. 2011 Apr;69(4):171-85.

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/22/13—TLS

16. Kellogg’s FiberPlus® Cinnamon Oat Crunch

http://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/kelloggs-fiberplus-cinnamon-oat-crunch-cereal.html

SOURCE CHECKED AND ACCESSED 7/31/13—TLS

17. American Heart Association: Getting Heart Healthy One Simple Step at a Time

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Getting-Heart-Healthy-One-Simple-Step-at-a-Time_UCM_447728_Article.jsp

by the Publishers of Prevention