Choose heart-healthy foods

When mainstream doctors suspect heart disease, they immediately turn to drugs for a cure. There is little discussion of diet.

But the simplest, easiest and tastiest ways to combat heart disease is to eat right. Of course, you knew that already. You know it’s true as is often said that, “you are what you eat.”

Heart health is really quite simple. Certain foods do your heart good. Eat more of them. Other foods do harm to your heart. Eat less of them or avoid them altogether.

You can also take supplements that supply the specific ingredients found by researchers to give you a strong heart and make its job easier, but it’s far better to get them the way nature intended—at mealtime. The nutrients in their natural state are more potent than the processed kind, and your body absorbs and processes them more efficiently when received in natural form.

The list of foods that are friendly to your heart is extensive, so you’ll have a tasty menu to enjoy while pampering your ticker. I’ve selected 31 heart-healthy foods (in random order) – and the benefits they provide — that I recommend you include in your diet.

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Heart-Healthy Foods

1. Salmon/fish: Omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Flaxseed (ground): Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.

3. Oatmeal: Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber… serve with blueberries or raisins (or make oatmeal/raisin cookies) for extra heart protection.

4. Black or kidney beans: B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber… served as a side dish or in soups and on salads.

5. Nuts: Vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. Eat nuts—walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and peanuts (which actually are legumes)—two to four days or more per week.

6. Red wine: Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids)… could improve “good” HDL cholesterol.

7. Tuna: Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.

8. Tofu: Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.

9. Brown rice: B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber… stir in with chopped vegetables like broccoli, carrots or spinach.

10. Soy milk: Isoflavones (a flavonoid); Bcomplex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens.

11. Blueberries: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too. Use them in trail mixes, muffins, and salads!

12. Carrots: Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.

13. Spinach: Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber. Substitute spinach for lettuce on sandwiches, in salads.

14. Broccoli: Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber; vitamins A, C, E.

15. Sweet potato: Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.

16. Red bell peppers: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

17. Asparagus: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.

18. Oranges: Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

19. Tomatoes: Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

20. Acorn squash: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber.

21. Cantaloupe: Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

22. Papaya: Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.

23. Dark chocolate: Resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) — choose 70 percent or higher cocoa content — epicatechin boosts nitric oxide to help keep blood pressure down.

24. Tea (especially green tea): Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids).

25. Whole grains: Antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols that are protective against coronary disease.

26. Raisins: Antioxidants that fight bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease (people with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems).

27. Yogurt: Probiotics protect against gum disease that elevates heart risk (also improves digestion and boosts immunity).

28. Apples: Strong antioxidant flavonoid compounds help prevent “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing.

29. Pomegranates: Polyphenols may help reduce buildup of plaque in the arteries and lower blood pressure… highest antioxidant capacity compared to other antioxidant-richbeverages like blueberry juice, cranberry juice and red wine.

30. Bananas: Potassium helps kidneys excrete excess sodium, contributing to healthy blood pressure.

31. Garlic: Reduces the enzyme angiotensin that constricts blood vessels, helps reduce the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.

There are lots of other heart-healthy goodies to expand the variety of your menu, like sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, winter squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, mackerel, herring, sardines, pears, apricots, peaches and plums.

And, as always, choose organic.

Bob Livingston

By Bob Livingston

Bob Livingston has been writing most of his adult life on matters of health, nutritional supplements, natural alternatives and social importance.