A heart-healthy diet isn’t a short-term plan with limited food options. It’s an eating plan you can follow throughout your lifetime because it includes a wide variety of satisfying, healthy foods.
Most importantly, this type of diet prevents heart disease and is an essential part of your treatment plan should cardiovascular problems develop.
So, what is a heart-healthy diet? This simply refers to a diet that includes fish, skinless poultry, lean meat, low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, beans, nuts, and unsaturated fats. Heart-healthy diets also limit salt, processed foods, and foods with added sugars.
Considering your extensive food choices, it’s hard to pick out five of the best. However, the team at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute rank the following foods at the top of their heart-healthy list.
Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, essential polyunsaturated fats that provide many benefits for your heart.
Omega-3s help to:
You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from other cold water fish, such as herring, mackerel, tuna, and trout.
Oats are great for your heart because they’re one of the few sources of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Oats also contain an incredibly high amount of this beneficial fiber.
Though all soluble fibers are heart-healthy, beta-glucan has been extensively studied. As a result, we can say that it’s proven to lower your cholesterol.
Like other soluble fibers, beta-glucan binds with cholesterol in your small intestine and carries it out of your body, preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream. This fiber also supports healthy gut bacteria and keeps blood sugar levels steady by slowing down sugar absorption.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, and elderberries are all packed with natural plant-based antioxidants that work wonders for your heart.
The antioxidants in berries reduce inflammation and increase the production of nitric oxide, a vital substance that supports the health of your blood vessels. They also inhibit blood clots and make your blood vessels relax.
Multiple studies show that eating dark green leafy vegetables can help lower your risk for heart disease. Leafy greens are packed with folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K — nutrients that are essential for cardiovascular health.
In addition to their nutritional value, leafy greens are good sources of phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals) that significantly reduce inflammation. They also provide fiber, but primarily contain insoluble fiber that promotes intestinal health.
Oats may be the top source of beta-glucan, but one cup of navy beans, split peas, and lentils provides double the amount of soluble fiber. (The difference is that beans contain a type of fiber called pectin.)
Beans are so high in fiber that if you’re not used to including fiber in your diet, you should start with small servings and gradually increase your intake to avoid uncomfortable bloating and gas.
In addition to being an exceptional source of soluble fiber, beans are high in proteins and have virtually no fat, making them an excellent heart-healthy alternative for an occasional meatless meal.
And your health benefits don’t end there. Beans provide heart-healthy nutrients, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins.
If you have questions about creating the best heart-healthy diet for your unique needs, call our office in The Woodlands, Texas, or request an appointment online today.