Written by Nicole German, RD for Diet-Blog.com
When you think about heart healthy foods, what comes to mind? Nuts, salmon, olive oil, and whole grains are the well-known foods for heart health. But, what about those lesser known foods that keep the heart pumping strong?
Dried Fruits: Some dried fruits like prunes contain a cocktail of phenol antioxidants that work together to prevent cell damage. An added bonus is that dried fruits contain good sources of fiber which can help to lower cholesterol levels and protect the heart.
Blueberries: We know blueberries as the anti-aging fruit—the fruit that will help keep the mind strong. Yet, blueberries protect the entire body. Studies show that eating at least one cup per day can improve cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides. Most interestingly, blueberries can actually improve the quality of the blood due to the combination of antioxidants they contain.
Grapes: Not a red wine drinker? Don’t worry; you can still get health benefits from eating the whole fruit. Grapes have a dual function: they are anti-inflammatory and have high antioxidant power. Grapes are most notable for their ability to lower blood pressure as they may help to dilate blood vessel walls and prevent cell build-up within the walls.
Tuna: This is great news for tuna lovers! The fish is a cheaper and more accessible heart healthy fish option. Tuna contains plenty of omega-3 fats which help to reduce inflammation in the body and therefore, improve cholesterol levels. By adding more healthy fats in the diet, triglyceride levels will lower. A unique benefit of tuna is its ability to strengthen the heart rhythm. After all, the heart beats billions of times in a lifetime.
Cayenne Pepper: All spicy foods like cayenne pepper contain capsaicin. This chemical is known for its ability to prevent blood clots and platelet adherence. Sprinkle a little spice on your meals, and you will be one step further to heart health.
Mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to prevent hardening of the arteries also known as atherosclerosis. Shiitake mushrooms also contain a unique chemical only known to mushrooms that can help to reduce cholesterol. Some researchers speculate that the unique antioxidants in shiitake mushrooms may help to support the mitochondria in the heart.
Celery: Many believe this stalk vegetable to be void of any nutritional value. This is not true! Celery can help to reduce blood pressure, and likely cholesterol, since it contains phthalides, potassium, and magnesium.
This is further evidence that most fresh whole foods contain some kind of heart health benefit. It is the processed and packaged foods that we need to stay away from. Try some of these new ideas for heart healthy foods in your next meal.
February 2nd, 2012