Good Morning, Heart Health!

Want to help your ticker’s health, starting now -- as in, this morning? First to try: Eating a balanced breakfast that includes fiber-full whole grains, fresh fruit, and lean protein, like a bowl of high-fiber cereal topped with low-fat milk and blueberries. [1] Next, incorporate one of these heart-healthy habits into your morning.

Hoof It

A brief walk -- even 10 minutes -- gets your heart off to a good start. Better yet, add two more 10-minute walks later in the day for a total of 30 minutes, a routine that’s been shown to lower blood pressure even more effectively than 30 consecutive minutes. [2]  

Peel It

One large banana is a potassium powerhouse (containing 487mg [3] -- about 10 percent of your recommended daily dose of this important nutrient). [3,4] A diet rich in potassium may help maintain healthy blood pressure. [4,5]

Pop It

A handful of berries, that is. In a study of more than 90,000 women whose diets were tracked over decades, eating more than 2 or more combined servings of fresh strawberries and blueberries per week was associated with lower risk of having a heart attack.[6] Berries get their power from anthocyanins, flavonoids that give them their cheery colors. Anthocyanins make blood vessels more flexible, lowering blood pressure. [6] Try tossing a handful of fresh berries on your morning cereal for a delicious pairing.[edit]

Brew It

You already know that green and black tea’s good for overall health, but preliminary research has discovered that brewing up a cup of flavorful hibiscus tea may lower blood pressure too. Like strawberries, the dark red hibiscus leaf also gets its color from anthocyanins. [7] To make a cup: Boil water and pour over dried hibiscus leaves and a cinnamon stick. Steep for 20 minutes, strain, and sweeten with some orange juice or honey. [8]

Caffeinate It

Your morning cup of joe has some benefits beyond helping you feel more awake. In a review of studies, researchers found that those who regularly drank about two 8-ounce cups of coffee had a lower risk of heart failure than those who didn’t consume the java [9]. Remember, that’s two standard cups at your favorite coffee shop, not two giant mugs.


1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 4 Tips for Better Breakfasts

Accessed 8/4/2013

2. Bhammar DM,Angadi SSGaesser GA.

Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure.

Med Sci Sports Exerc.2012 Dec;44(12):2270-6.

3. USDA Database Banana

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4. Potassium AI

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5. He FJMacGregor GA.

Beneficial effects of potassium on human health.

Physiol Plant.2008 Aug;133(4):725-35.

6. Aedín Cassidy,  Kenneth J. Mukamal,  Lydia Liu,  Mary Franz,  A. Heather Eliassen,  and Eric B. Rimm High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women

Circulation. 2013;127:188-196,

7. Hopkins ALLamm MGFunk JLRitenbaugh C.

Hibiscus sabdariffa L. in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies.

Fitoterapia. 2013 Mar;85:84-94.

8. Tea recipe:

Accessed 8/4/2013

9. Mostofsky ERice MSLevitan EBMittleman MA.

Habitual coffee consumption and risk of heart failure: a dose-response meta-analysis.

Circ Heart Fail. 2012 Jul 1;5(4):401-5.

Simple Ways to Swap Out Saturated Fats

While consuming too much of any fat is not great -- fat equals calories, and a little bit adds up fast -- completely cutting out fat is also unhealthy. Your body needs fat for fuel, both to utilize fat-soluble vitamins and for the satisfaction and satiety that keep you from overloading on calories. Scientists now understand that certain healthy fats, particularly fatty acids like omega-3s, may be good for your cardiovascular health. The trick is limiting bad-fat consumption (saturated fats and trans fats are the worst offenders) and replacing those no-no’s with good fats, such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Read on for fat swaps you can feel good about.

Switch Butter for Olive Oil

Butter is a saturated fat, which is linked to higher cholesterol levels. Olive oil is monounsaturated fat, which may help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol. More than just a salad dressing, olive oil can be used in place of butter or vegetable oil in many baking recipes too.

Lighten Up Your Meat

No one says you have to refuse every rib eye or juicy burger you see. The same goes for chicken with the skin on or other fatty meats. But enjoy those foods, which are high in saturated fat, as only occasional treats and opt for smaller portions and leaner cuts when filling you plate. For example an 8-ounce rib eye has 492 calories and 27 grams of fat—10 grams of which are saturated, while a 3-ounce portion of flank steak (about the size of a deck of cards) has just 172 calories and 8 grams of total fat, with only 3 grams of them being saturated Meanwhile, add a couple servings a week of omega-3 fatty acid–rich fish, such as salmon and white albacore tuna canned in water.

Replace Cookies, Cakes, Doughnuts With … Anything

What you’ll find in these goodies: trans fats. When baking at home skip the shortening and butter, and when shopping at the grocery store look for the words “partially hydrogenated” on labels. Those are the oils that help keep these foods shelf-stable, and there’s nothing good about them. Eat these products very sparingly. If your sweet tooth beckons, have one delicious homemade chocolate chip cookie or a bowl of a sweet-tasting cereal. Or try a serving of low-fat frozen yogurt.

Forgo Peanut Butter for Almond Butter: Both nut butters are high in fat and calories, so you should look for varieties that skip added ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, and palm oil. But almond butter edges out peanut thanks to less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fat.

8 heart-healthy foods you need to eat

Keeping your cholesterol numbers in a healthy range just got easier, not to mention more delicious. Turns out, there are plenty of easy-to-find, yummy foods that work to boost heart health by lowering your levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol or keeping your good (HDL) cholesterol intact. Here are eight cholesterol-friendly foods to add to your diet.  

1. Avocados

Creamy, rich avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat, which may help raise HDL and lower LDL. They’re also high in beta-sitosterol, a plant-based healthy fat.

Try it: Though healthful, avocados have 300 calories each, so your best strategy is to replace other fats with avocado. Use it instead of mayo in a sandwich, for example. [1]

2. Beans

These unassuming wonders are especially high in fiber.

Try it: Add a cup a day of any kind of bean (kidney, navy, pinto, black) to your diet -- plain, in salads or soups, or pureed into dips. [2]

3. Garlic

Those tiny cloves have great power, not to mention great flavor! Research has shown that in adequate quantities, garlic consumption may help lower total cholesterol.  [3]

Try it: Challenge yourself to add a couple of cloves a day to your meals, be it in marinades, salad dressings, soups, sauces or more.

4. Nuts

Many nuts, but in particular walnuts, are rich in cholesterol-reducing polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Try it: Eat about a handful a day of most nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts), but avoid salty or sugary coatings and keep the portion small (1.5 ounces at most). Replace other fats with nuts; for example, instead of putting cheese in a salad, toss in a handful of chopped walnuts. [4] 

5. Oats

The high level of viscous soluble fiber in oats can help lower total and LDL cholesterol, although the mechanisms for how it does so are not fully known. [4,5]

Try it: Work in a serving (about 1 1/2 cups) of cooked oatmeal a day -- either regular oats or the steel-cut variety. [4] Also good: Have some cold cereal made with whole-grain oats or oat bran, [4] like Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch [5].  Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3 grams of soluble fiber per day from whole grain oats may reduce the risk of heart disease [6].

6. Olive Oil

There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet is heart-healthy; olive oil’s mix of antioxidants and healthy fat may help to lower your LDL while leaving HDL untouched.

Try it: Replace other fats with olive oil: Use it to sauté veggies, for salad dressing, or as a dip for bread in place of butter. Extra virgin is the most cholesterol-friendly variety [4].

7. Plant sterols

These substances, found in some plants, help block cholesterol absorption.

Try it: Look for sterol-fortified foods -- typically orange juice and some butter-replacing spreads. [4]

8. Tea

The flavonoids (antioxidants) found in brewed tea have been shown to reduce LDL and total cholesterol when consumed in adequate quantities [7,8].

Try it: Research shows that five cups of black tea per day can produce these benefits, so try making tea a part of your heart-healthy diet [8].


1. NYU Langone Medical Center: Avocado

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2. Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet

Accessed 7/29/2013

3. Khalid Rahman and Gordon M. Lowe

Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review

J. Nutr. March 2006. 136(3) 736S-740S

4. Mayo Clinic Cholesterol Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers

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5. Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Cinnamon Oat Crunch Cereal

Accessed 9/2/2013

6. FDA CFR Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

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7. Zheng XXXu YLLi SHLiu XXHui RHuang XH.

Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):601-10.

8. Michael J. Davies, Joseph T. Judd, David J. Baer, Beverly A. Clevidence,David R. Paul, Alison J. Edwards, Sheila A. Wiseman, Richard A. Muesing,and Shirley C. Chen

Black Tea Consumption Reduces Total and LDL Cholesterol in Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Adults

J. Nutr. 2003 133: 3298S-3302S

2-Minute Stress Busters

Got stress? Most of us do. In the most recent “Stress in America” survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, seven in 10 Americans reported experiencing symptoms of stress, such as anger, irritability, and fatigue. [1] Worse: Prolonged or chronic stress can lead to metabolic changes that increase your risk for heart disease. [2] While eliminating stress is the ideal, it’s not always possible, but you can short-circuit it in the moment. Here, five simple ways to unwind in 2 minutes or less.

1. Drink black tea.

In a study from University College, London, participants who drank a cup of black tea before doing stressful tasks had lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone associated with heart disease risk factors) after completing the assignments than the non-tea-imbibers. [3]

2. Swear off stress.

Curse? You? Yes! Research has shown that letting out a strategically uttered expletive (behind your office door, say, or in your car -- not in a meeting or at a dinner party!) helps you blow off steam. [4]

3. Press on.

Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that acupressure (when pressure is placed on certain points in the body called meridians) can lower stress more or less instantly. [5] Try it yourself: Press the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger for 20 to 30 seconds. [6]

4. Have a laugh.

A hearty belly laugh makes you feel happier instantly, and recent research found that even anticipating laughter may lower levels of stress hormones.[7] Go to YouTube and search for funny animal videos, or clips from your favorite sitcoms or comedians -- whatever reliably gets you giggling.

5. Switch lanes.

Other drivers got you boiling? Resist the urge to speed past or worse. Instead, switch to the slow lane and breathe. [8]


1. APA Stress in America Report

Accessed 7/31/2013

2. American Heart Association: Stress and Heart Health

Accessed 7/31/2013

3. Steptoe AGibson ELVuononvirta RWilliams EDHamer MRycroft JAErusalimsky JDWardle J.

The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial.

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Jan;190(1):81-9. Epub 2006 Sep 30.

4. Yehuda Baruch, Stuart Jenkins

Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: When anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable

 Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 28 Iss: 6, pp.492 – 507

5. Yip YBTse SH.

An experimental study on the effectiveness of acupressure with aromatic lavender essential oil for sub-acute, non-specific neck pain in Hong Kong.

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2006 Feb;12(1):18-26. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

PMID: 16401526

6.Accupressure Point LI-4

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7. Lee S Berk,  Stanley A Tan,  and Dottie Berk

Cortisol and Catecholamine stress hormone decrease is associated with the behavior of perceptual anticipation of mirthful laughter

FASEB J April 5, 2008 22:946.11

8. American Heart 4 Ways to Deal with Stress

Accessed 7/31/2013 

Getting More Fiber From Your Whole Grains

Counting calories is relatively easy. But tallying up your daily fiber intake? Well, it may not be test-taking hard, but simple it’s not. Getting on friendly terms with nutrition facts labels is one way to demystify the process. But first, it helps to know where to look to ensure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient.

Fiber plays a central role in maintaining healthy digestion. TheAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that healthy adults get at least 25g of fiber every day, and whole food sources should be considered first -- not supplements. (Whole foods trump supplements because pills cannot duplicate all the nutrients and benefits of the real deal.) [1,3] Most adults, however, only get about 15 g fiber daily. [1]

Whole grains, along with fruits, vegetables and legumes, all contain fiber. [1,2] When you’re looking at labels, it’s important to ensure that the grains you’re buying are actually whole or fiber-fortified, or else they may contain far less fiber than you expect. Just because a food is made with whole grains doesn’t guarantee it’s a good source of fiber. [6,10,11] Likewise, many foods that are “all bran” or bran-rich are rich in fiber [12] because bran is where the fiber is found. [4,5] Check the nutrition facts panel for at least 3 g fiber per serving to find that good source of fiber. [10] And, remember, whole-grain doesn’t just mean whole-wheat. Some other great whole grains to check out include oats, barley, brown rice, rye and buckwheat. [4,5,10]

Different types of whole grains, such as oats, wheat and corn, contain different amounts of fiber, as well as different vitamins and minerals, so it’s important to cast a wide net when you’re picking your grains. You might want a cereal with bran for breakfast, such asKellogg’s® Raisin Bran®. For lunch, you could have a sandwich on whole-wheat bread, and then include some quinoa and vegetable salad with dinner. [4,5,7,8]

And while we get much of our dietary fiber from whole and fiber-fortified grains, it’s a good idea to mix your whole grains with fruits and vegetables: Put berries on your fiber-rich breakfast cereal or try vegetable sandwiches on spelt bread. Your body needs the various fibers found in these different foods for optimum benefit. [2,9] By exploring all of the foods in which fiber can be found, eating right will never get boring.


1. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber

2. FDA: How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label

3. Mayo Clinic: Fiber Supplements

4. Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains

5.Mayo Clinic: Whole Grains:

6. American Heart Association: Reading Food Nutrition Labels

7. Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains: an Important Source of Healthy Nutrients

8. Kellogg’s® Cracklin’ Oat Bran®

9. Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet

10. American Diabetes Association: Whole Grain Foods

11. Nutrition Facts: Whole Grains

12. Fiber and sugar content of breakfast cereals