Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, so make sure you take no half-hearted measures regarding your health. In addition to exercise, introducing heart-healthy superfoods is a great way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Many of these top eight heart-healthy superfoods are easy to find in grocery stores and even include dessert—yum!
These small berries provide big benefits from antioxidants. Blueberries may reduce the buildup of “bad” LDL cholesterol in artery walls. According to the USDA Human Nutrition Center, blueberries rank as the number one antioxidant food compared to 40 other fruits and vegetables. Frozen blueberries make great additions to smoothies and can be added to cereal in the morning.
2. Dark Chocolate
Turns out you can have your dark chocolate cake and eat it too when it comes to heart health. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which can help blood pressure, clotting and inflammation. Steer clear of milk chocolate, however. Candy bars that aren’t dark chocolate won’t decrease the risks of strokes and fatal heart attacks.
Almonds, cashews, pecans and walnuts contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of developing blood clots. Adding nuts to your diet can lower the blood level of “bad” cholesterol as well. Nuts are still high in calories, though, so watch your intake.
Skip the refined grains and cook up a batch of whole grain oatmeal for breakfast. This fiber-rich food contains only 130 calories in a half-cup serving. Oatmeal keeps you fuller for longer, potentially skipping the need for unhealthy snacking throughout the day. Whole grains also reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, which can act as a precursor for heart disease.
One of the less common foods on this list, pomegranate makes a delicious snack that contains many antioxidants. The polyphenols and anthocyanins work to prevent hardening of the arteries, while improving blood flow to the heart. If pomegranates are out of your price range, apples may be used as a substitute.
6. Red Wine
Good news for all you amateur sommeliers out there: small amounts of red wine may lower heart disease risk. Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine, is an antioxidant that protects you from risks of cancer and heart disease.
Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also prevent blood clots by making platelets less likely to stick together. The American Heart Association suggests eating oily fish two times a week to reach your omega-3 fatty acid goals.
Vegetarians have a leg up when it comes to the health benefits of soy. Rich in vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and protein, soy is lower in fat and higher in fiber than most meats. Opt for tofu in your stir-fry or eat a veggie burger the next time you have a cookout to introduce soy into your diet.
When it comes to your health, set your heart on improving your current diet. Introducing heart-healthy superfoods will help you combat your “bad” cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. This way you can extend your life expectancy and feel better at the same time.