Mark Twain once said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want.” The take-away message? The foods you find less appealing are probably more nutritious and vital to your health. Luckily, today most of us have access to a variety of delicious and healthy food options—and people are living longer as a result. Despite better access to foods that improve our diet and health, women continue to be at greater risk for heart disease, more so than men. What does it take to be a heart-healthy woman these days?
Heart health involves good nutrition, weight management, stress management, physical activity, smoking cessation, and more. A healthy lifestyle will point you in the direction of good heart health. You can take that a step further by eating more of these seven foods that are good for heart health:
Salmon and fresh tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating two or more servings of fish per week lowers your risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and help prevent abnormal blood clotting, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
2. Whole Grains
Foods containing whole grains are high in antioxidants and soluble fiber. By eating a high fiber diet, you lower your risk of heart disease by 40 percent. Oatmeal, beans and barley are good whole grain options.
Walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios contain monounsaturated fats. Unlike saturated and trans fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can have a positive effect on heart health, when consumed in moderation. These good fats help to reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can lower your risk for stroke and heart disease. Try eating a handful of nuts two to four days a week. Here’s another tip: monounsaturated fats can be found in certain oils, including olive oil and peanut oil. Use these healthier oils to prepare your baked or broiled fish for added nutrition and to keep them from sticking to the pan--and you'll be killing two birds with one stone!
5. Fresh Fruit
Apples, pomegranates, bananas, berries, raisins and tomatoes are important fruits for managing heart health. Apples and pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants. Pomegranates also reduce artery build-up and lower blood pressure. Potassium-rich bananas help to maintain heart function and replace the important electrolytes excreted by the kidneys. Berries act to lower blood pressure. Raisins help to prevent periodontal or gum disease, which is often associated with heart disease.
Dark chocolate, which contains 70 percent cocoa solids, has flavonoids that keep the blood properly thinned and helps prevent potential heart disease. Chocolate also aids in strengthening the immune system.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, those with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to have coronary artery disease. Fortunately, yogurt contains probiotics that reduce the amount of unhealthy bacteria in your mouth that often lead to dental complications like cavities and gingivitis--both of which can negatively impact your heart health. Do your heart a favor and eat the USDA recommended amount of yogurt, which is 8 ounces per day. By doing so, you are not only keeping your mouth cleaner and your heart healthier, but you will regulate your digestive system and boost your immune system.
Talk to your doctor or medical professional about additional foods you can incorporate into your diet to keep your “ticker” healthy and ticking for many years to come. You can use this list to plan meals or work with a nutritionist to create a diverse meal plan based on these foods, other foods you enjoy, and the recommendations provided to you by your physician. After all, eating healthy should be fun, not boring!