Unfortunately, heart disease is all too common in the United States, killing about one million people annually, according to the Heart Foundation. In fact, a person in the US has a heart attack every 34 seconds each day. The issue isn’t just limited to men, either, as heart disease is the top killer of both women and men across the country.
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With heart disease being such a real health threat for so many people, it just makes sense to try to keep your weight at a healthy level and to eat right to help protect yourself. One thing you can do to ward off heart disease that’s pretty easy is to add some heart-healthy foods to your diet. Check out the following foods to help you develop a diet that will boost your heart health.
Head To The Sea
Fish such as rainbow trout, salmon and tuna are known as “fatty.” While that may sound like a bad thing, fatty fishes have loads of omega-3, which are acids that can lower the fat levels in your blood and help reduce inflammation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the amount of fat in your blood, which are known as triglycerides, is actually an indicator of how healthy your heart is. The higher the amount of triglycerides in your blood, the more at risk you are of developing heart disease.
Try to get at least two servings of omega-3-rich fish into your diet per week. A quick meal, for example, could be pouch tuna served on a bed of grape tomatoes, sliced red onions and dark, leafy greens.
If burgers are more your thing, you can make salmon or tuna burgers by mixing together two six-ounce cans of salmon or tuna that are packed in water with a quarter-cup each of quick-cook oats and minced red onion, a single egg and a bit of lemon juice for zest.
Use parsley and black pepper for seasoning, and then form the patties from your mixture and bake on a greased cookie sheet until they are golden brown on both sides. Serve your patties on whole-wheat buns or English muffins with tomato and lettuce.
If you’re allergic to seafood, you can get omega-3 acids from other foods, such as soybeans, flax and tofu. There are supplements as well, but make sure you research any supplement before taking them, and double-check the labels, as some omega-3 supplements do contain seafood.
Say Hello To Nuts And Greens
Many nuts, including walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, pack quite the heart punch, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic. Most nuts have fiber, which can make you feel fuller so you eat less. Fiber also lowers your cholesterol. This same effect comes from the “good” fat found in nuts which is known as “unsaturated fats.”
Like fish, nuts have omega-3 acids, and these crunch snacks also contain Vitamin E, which researchers believe helps stop the development of plaque in your arteries. Last but not least, nuts are a source of l-arginine, a substance that can improve the condition of your artery walls.
You can go…nuts with nuts, really, as they are quite versatile. Go for 100-calorie snack packs of nuts for a quick serving on the go, or add to your oatmeal, baked fruit or yogurt. You can also add nuts to salads and whatever meals they work in. For example, almonds can be used to coat chicken or fish.
Use dark and leaf greens, like chard, spinach and kale, wherever you would normally use iceberg lettuce. These greens are full of folate, Vitamins A, C and Vitamin K, and they also have fiber, all of which will help boost your cardiovascular system.
Oats, Winter Squash And Berries
Oats contain a soluble fiber known as beta glucan, and this is known to help control your blood sugar levels and lower your “bad”, or LDL, cholesterol levels.
Some people are not going to be into plain oats for breakfast, but you can work them into your cooking in other ways. Substitute quick-cook oats for breadcrumbs in recipes such as meatballs and meatloaf, and use them as a coating for bread.
You can also use gluten-free oats as a substitute for flour in recipes that call for gluten-free products. Just grind the oats in your food processor until you get a texture like that of flour, and use as you would actual flour.
From strawberries to blueberries, the berry family is packed with minerals, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, the latter of which can lower inflammation, reduce bad cholesterol and help prevent build-up of plaque. The great thing about berries is that you can use frozen ones, which are more affordable than fresh fruits.
Add berries to your favorite low-fat desserts, such as yogurt, and into snacks like cottage cheese. You can even use them in salads or hot and cold cereals.
Finally, there’s the heart-healthy Vitamin-A and carotenoid-rich winter squash. There are different varieties, including spaghetti, acorn and butternut, so try more than one type if you don’t love your first choice.
You can actually use spaghetti squash in place of rice or pasta, as it’s a lot lower in fat and carbs. Add pureed squash to your soups, chili, muffins and casseroles. For a fall-tinged snack, roast squash chunks and sprinkle with some cinnamon and pumpkin-seed oil.
Two Quick Examples:
Try the heart-healthy pick-me-up recipes below to get started on your new diet today!
Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
Chilling Time: 8 Hours
Yields 1 Serving
What you need:
2 packets of your favorite oatmeal
2/3 cup of almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, low-fat
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 ounce chopped walnuts, to taste
Combine all of the listed ingredients except the walnuts in a bowl. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge overnight. Use the walnuts as topping before you serve.
Quick Kale Chips
Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
Cooking Time: 20 Minutes
Yields 3-4 Servings
What you need:
A 16-ounce package of kale that’s ready to cook
1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, to your taste
Preheat your oven to 300°F. Drizzle the oil on the kale and sprinkle with salt. Massage both the salt and oil onto the kale so it’s evenly coated. Place the kale on a baking sheet with light greasing in a single layer. Bake until the kale is crisp, and make sure you flip the leaves over about halfway through.
As you can see, getting some heart-boosting foods into your diet isn’t as hard or complicated as you may have once thought. The key here is to get creative and be willing to experiment with combinations that you’ve never tried before. Fruit in your green salad, for example, is something that has recently become more popular, so don’t be afraid to give it a try, as you never know what may come of it.