Eating healthy foods is one big step you can take to protect your heart, but most folks wait too long to change what they eat.
“Many people ignore their diet until they develop cardiovascular symptoms later in life. Adopting a heart-healthy diet when you are young can help you live longer and healthier,” Loyola University Medical Center cardiologist Khaled Dajani said in a recent blog post.
In its Dietary Guidance Scientific Statement, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating foods from the Mediterranean, Healthy US-Style and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets for heart health. These include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Plant-based oils
- Whole fruits
- Lean meats
- Beans and legumes
Let’s take a look at five of the best foods for heart health from these categories, and how to easily add them to your diet.
Olive oil contains the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat, which is great for your heart, according to the AHA. It helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol. You’ll want to keep portions between 1 to 3 tablespoons a day, as olive oil is high in fat.
Ways to enjoy olive oil:
- Dip whole-wheat bread into olive oil instead of using butter.
- Toss pasta in a light mix of olive oil, pepper, and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese in place of creamy sauces.
- Ditch store-bought dressings and make a mix of olive oil, vinegar, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder for your greens.
Quinoa is a fiber-rich, gluten-free grain from South America that contains antioxidants and all nine essential amino acids, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Antioxidants and amino acids help protect and repair cells and reduce the risk of disease. Plus, fiber may lower cholesterol and blood pressure, states Harvard Health.
One meta-analysis of studies published recently in the Phytotherapy Research Journals showed that eating quinoa lowered people’s body weight, LDL levels, and several other key cardiovascular disease risk factors. The AHA recommends eating at least three servings of whole grains like quinoa per day.
Ways to enjoy quinoa: