In honor of World Heart Day, here are 5 heart-friendly foods that will help keep your heart going strong.
There’s a reason why you see a large heart on the Quaker Oats canisters. Scientific study after study has shown that oats help reduce the risk of heart disease. Oats, like some other whole grains, contain the fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown reduce LDL cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and prevent a spike in blood pressure after eating.
Oats also contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. These polyphenols are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, have been shown to protect against coronary heart disease, and can help with skin irritation. Oats also contain magnesium, a common mineral shared by all the foods on this list. Magnesium helps with nerve transmission, lowers your blood pressure, and may also help to reduce migraine headaches. It also can help help ward off cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Even better, oats can be used for oatmeal, baking, or smoothies all year long! For starters, try this apple cinnamon oatmeal recipe for a nutritious and protein-filled breakfast.
Nuts and Peanuts
Back in 2004, the producers of walnuts, peanuts, and almonds were given the go-ahead to claim that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts a day could lower your risk of heart disease. That’s a big claim for something you’d find littered on the floor after a baseball game or in your stocking come Christmas. So instead of ordering a $10 hot dog, try getting a bag of peanuts at the ballpark and sharing with the group. You don’t even need a lot of them to get the benefits.
Many nuts are high in good fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids (something else you’ll see a lot on this list) and heart healthy monosaturated fats. Plus, they contain vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. They also have a high satiety factor, meaning you don’t have to eat a lot to satisfy your appetite. And, if you keep your hunger cravings to a minimum, you’ll be less likely to engage in unhealthy eating escapades.
The healthiest nuts are considered walnuts, almonds, and peanuts, though cashews also provide similar health benefits. Eating them raw is your best bet, except peanuts, which you probably want to eat dry roasted to avoid any potential aflatoxin issues. If you want more explanation of the health benefits of nuts, check out this article.
Yes, the same green leafy thing you put in your smoothies, omelets, salads, and hamburgers, also happens to be great for your heart. In the World’s Healthiest Food, spinach received the highest health score for all vegetables and for good reason.
Spinach contains large amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, which can help improve your cholesterol. Plus spinach contains folic acid (a B vitamin that helps create new cells) and magnesium. Spinach is available year-round, but will officially be in season soon, as it’s winter’s frost that gives it bolder flavor and better texture.
As the only food on this list we don’t recommend for smoothies, salmon is known for being high in omega-3 fatty acids. The omega 3s can help keep a regular heart rhythm and defend against coronary heart disease. Salmon also provides plenty of vitamin B6 (helps create antibodies and breaks down protein), vitamin B12 (helps create new blood cells and contributes to central nervous system function), niacin, and magnesium.
If you are going to eat salmon this winter, it has been well documented that wild-caught salmon is better for you than farm-raised salmon. The farm-raised fish still contain omega-3s and protein, but you get more of both from wild-caught salmon and considerably less fat. However, farm-raised salmon often contain high levels of toxins, anitbiotics, and produce large amounts of waste in the surrounding area (you can read more about this process here). So if you can, it is always better to get wild salmon, but be careful because 75 percent of the salmon you find in the US in farm-raised.
Looking for a good salmon recipe that incorporates other foods on this list? Try these spinach-stuffed salmon fillets.
The kiwifruit or kiwi, is often associated to New Zealand, but they actually originated in China (where it was called the gooseberry). The fruit is still prevalent in China and carries the name “strange fruit.”
This “strange fruit” also happens to be great for your heart. It’s loaded with vitamin C (1 kiwi is nearly 100 percent of your daily requirement), so like spinach it protects against LDL cholesterol. Kiwis are also high in dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, and even have phytonutrients that help protect our DNA.
Looking for other ways to enjoy kiwi than on their own? Try using it in a salad with salmon, almonds, and spinach, or you can even use it as a marinade (kiwi enzymes help tenderize meat).