Top 10 heart healthy foods
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Okay, enough with the “no-nos” and “hands off” items in our diets. We know what we shouldn’t be eating. How about the yummy foods we can eat and—bonus!—are heart healthy? To narrow it down even further, what can busy nurses eat while on the go? Here are our top 10 faves.
Some people love it, some people prefer to live without it, but there’s no doubt about it: Some types of fish are very good for your heart. To benefit from the omega-3 fatty acid (which boosts HDL cholesterol and protects your arteries from plaque buildup), you need to eat fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. It’s recommended that adults eat two servings of fatty fish per week. A serving is about the size of a deck of cards.
If you don’t like the taste of fish, try fish oil capsules such as MegaRed Omega-3 Krill Oil. Fish oil supplements are a fast and easy way to reap the benefits without having to deal with the fishy flavor.
If you’ve seen ads on television for oatmeal or oatmeal-based cereals lately, chances are you’ve seen claims that the products are heart healthy. While we don’t know about the particular advertised item, it is true that oatmeal is heart healthy. Aside from being a nutritious grain, it also contains cholesterol-lowering fiber—something that many people can use.
If oatmeal isn’t your favorite, try adding granola or baking some healthy oatmeal muffins. These are easy to take with you as snacks for work.
3. Peanut butter
Many of us remember peanut butter sandwiches from our childhood, but for a lot of people, PB sandwiches were left behind once we reached adulthood. For the sake of your heart, feel free to bring out a jar of peanut butter and enjoy it on your morning toast. Peanut butter is not only full of protein, it’s also full of fiber, which helps keep your LDL cholesterol down.
Of course, you do need to be careful about what type of peanut butter you eat and how much of it! As healthy as peanut butter is for your heart, it’s also high in calories. The USDA Food Pyramid lists 2 tablespoons of peanut butter as equal to 1 ounce of lean meat, and it’s recommended that you have 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish per day. It’s best to look for raw or “natural” peanut butter. The less refined it is, the purer the product.
For work, try taking small containers of peanut butter with you and spoon some onto melba toast or crackers when you’re ready for a snack.
4. Soy milk
Soy has lots of benefits and soy milk is a great way to get those benefits. It has phytoestrogens, which researchers believe lower total and LDL cholesterol, and may even reduce the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
If you put soy milk over your oatmeal in the morning, you’d be even further ahead, but if you’re looking for something to take to work, some soy milk brands are sold in small juice-box size containers. Added benefit? Although it may taste better cold, soy milk doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge before it’s been opened. An extra bonus if you’re commuting with it!
Why are blueberries a great choice? They have lots of fiber and vitamins. And they taste good! Blueberries are a great fruit to keep on hand for snacking—and for cooking or baking. You can throw blueberries into low-fat homemade pancakes or waffles. You can also throw these berries into fruit salads to bring to work or mix a few into some yogurt.
When it comes to heart-healthy food that’s portable and easy to prepare, carrots have to be at the top of the list. Carrots contain a carotenoid, which is a heart-protective antioxidant. You can bring carrots to work to snack on (there’s something satisfying about chomping on a nice fresh carrot) or you can bake delicious low-fat carrot cakes or muffins. Also try sneaking shredded carrots into pasta sauces and soups.
A good diet isn’t just about food—you can drink some great heart-healthy stuff, too. Tea has long been touted for its health benefits, and now researchers know that tea does have some heart-health nutrients, such as flavonoids. In tea, the flavonoids you’ll find are catechins and flavonols, which are believed to protect blood vessels, lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. So, instead of having a coffee break, why not take a tea break? Don’t want to drink hot tea? Iced tea is just as good and perfect for the warmer months!
8. Red wine
Okay, you knew red wine was going to make the list, right? Honestly, after a hard day at work, sometimes the perfect thing is a glass of wine and a good book (movie, television show, bubble bath…). And don’t feel guilty. Red wine (in moderate amounts!) may actually be healthy for your heart. It contains flavonoids, as does tea, except in this case, they are catechins and reservatrol.
Would you like to have a little snack with that wine? Try some walnuts—and if you add some dark chocolate, you can have your very own trail mix. This is also a wonderful snack to take to work.
Walnuts have heart-health advantages because they are loaded with plant omega-3 fatty acids (similar to the fish omega-3), vitamins, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and the all-important fiber.
Not only are walnuts great for snacks, but they also can be added to cooking and baking, and added to salads, as well.
10. Dark chocolate
And for our finale: dark chocolate. Okay, we let it slip when we discussed the almonds and walnuts, but dark chocolate does have some heart-health value that shouldn’t be ignored. As long as the chocolate has more than 70 percent cocoa content, it may help lower blood pressure because of the reservatrol and flavonoids.
There are heart-healthy foods all around. We just have to be conscious of them and remember that there are delicious foods that are good for you, too.
Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.
By Marijke Durning