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Heart Healthy Foods

by Felicia Brower

Heart Healthy Foods LAAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. In fact, each year 600,000 people die of heart disease and 715,000 Americans suffer from heart attacks. Diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use are all contributing factors to coronary heart disease and other heart health problems.

Fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and wild fish are essential dietary components for a heart-healthy diet. The foods listed here are full of nutrients and antioxidants that help maintain heart health by removing free radicals from the bloodstream, strengthening blood vessels and increasing blood flow. In addition to frequent exercise, incorporating these foods into the diet will help maintain a healthy heart.

Wild Salmon

Wild salmon keeps the heart healthy with omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of selenium. These boost cardiovascular protection and improve the metabolic markers for heart disease.

Ground Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed is full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytoestrogens. It makes a good addition to yogurt parfaits, cereal, muffins and smoothies. In addition, those with hypertension will find that flaxseed can significantly lower high blood pressure levels.

Oatmeal

Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium and soluble fiber are all key elements of oatmeal. Plain, non-processed oatmeal is the optimal choice because of the large amounts of processed sugar present in instant or flavored oats.

Almonds

Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols can all be found in almonds. Mix them into salads and yogurts or eat them raw as a snack for an extra heart boost.

Walnuts

Walnuts are a great source of plant omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, fiber, heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols. Unsalted walnuts are best for heart health.

Red wine

Red wine has catechins and resveratrol (flavonoids) and can have health benefits by improving the levels of good HDL cholesterol. Some types of red wine contain large amounts of procyanidins, an antioxidant that helps reduce cholesterol and increases arterial health.

Blueberries

Blueberries are small, but they pack a punch. These little treats are full of beta-carotene and lutein, anthocyanin (a flavonoid), ellagic acid, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber and resveratrol.

Spinach

Spinach is an excellent source of lutein, B-complex vitamins, folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium and fiber. Eating green leafy vegetables high in folic acid can lower homocysteine levels – an emerging risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.

Broccoli

Broccoli is low in cholesterol, high in fiber, and contains beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber. Broccoli can be added to soups, eaten raw or steamed.

Tomatoes

The Ohio state fruit is great for maintaining a healthy heart. Packed with beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids), vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber, tomatoes have many benefits. In addition, do not discard the gel that surrounds tomato seeds; it helps improve blood flow.

Felicia Brower is a freelance writer based in Columbus. Connect at Felicia-Brower.com or email fmbrower@gmail.com.

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