It is an unfortunate misconception that foods must either taste good or be good for you. While some kids may turn their noses up at anything green on the dinner table, more experienced palates can find a plethora of foods that satisfy cravings and pack a punch of nutrients. Eating a diet rich in heart-healthy foods is just as important for your cardiovascular health as daily exercise and regular check-ups. Try incorporating a few of the following heart super foods into your regular routine to ensure your body’s most vital organ stays strong and healthy for years to come.
- Salmon. This fish is known for its omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for helping out our hearts. The American Heart Association recommends eating salmon or other omega-3 rich foods at least twice a week to maximize its benefits. Try grilling or searing salmon, add a splash of lemon juice with some healthy greens and you have a wonderful lunch or dinner awaiting you on your plate. For a less fishy taste, add a few chunks of salmon into a soup or pasta dish.
- Oatmeal. Starting your day off with a hot breakfast provides the necessary energy to get you through your morning. Oatmeal is well known for its high fiber content that keeps you full while also helping to lower your cholesterol. Take advantage of oatmeal’s many vitamins and minerals by enjoying it for breakfast with some fresh berries and a teaspoon of brown sugar or honey. Or, if you need breakfast on the go, bake some homemade granola or low-fat oatmeal raisin cookies Sunday night to last you through the work week.
- Carrots. This root vegetable may not look all too impressive when it comes straight out of the ground, but high levels of beta carotene and Vitamin A turn this unassuming salad-topper into a heart-protecting machine. The nutrient makeup of carrots has lead scientists to believe they are beneficial in preventing everything from heart disease to cancer. Toss a bag of carrot sticks in your purse or briefcase to snack on during the day, or add a handful of shredded carrots to soups, salads and dinner recipes for a nutrient boost.
- Tomatoes. Tomatoes are excellent source of lycopene and other carotenoids which help maintain a strong heart. Unlike most vegetables, researchers believe that canned and processed tomatoes are equally as beneficial as their raw counterparts. To enjoy the benefits of lycopene, add tomato paste to soups and sauces, include a thick slice of tomato on sandwiches or top a bowl of whole wheat pasta with canned tomato sauce.
- Olive Oil. Dieticians have found that including about two tablespoons of olive oil into your daily diet can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by promoting healthy cholesterol levels. This benefit only works, however, if olive oil is substituted for saturated fats in your diet (versus simply raising your overall level of fat intake). Swap olive oil for butter or other vegetable oils in your dinner menu or replace store-bought salad dressings with homemade olive oil vinaigrette to reap the rewards of this Mediterranean gem.
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