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5 foods that are good for your heart health

If you’ve resolved to eat healthier and take better care of your heart, this is for you. Many of my clients know they need to improve their diet, but most have difficulty deciding where or how to get started.

For instance, it’s no mystery that fruits and vegetables are good for us. However, choosing which ones to buy and knowing how to incorporate them into meals may seem challenging.

Can you relate? To simplify and add enjoyment to your meals, here are five foods that will help improve the health of your heart, along with practical tips on how to select and include them in your diet.

1. Red apples

Why apples are good for your heart

Apples contribute to a lower risk of heart disease because they contain many different antioxidant compounds, such as quercetin, which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and helps prevent blood clots. Apples also contain soluble fiber that may lower bad types of cholesterol.

Shopping for apples

Select apples that are firm and free from bruises, soft spots or wrinkled skin. Apples keep much longer when stored in the refrigerator—usually three weeks or more.

MEAL IDEAS FOR apples

  • Dice as a sweet topping for cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt
  • Slice and add peanut butter for an energizing snack
  • Dice and add to green, leafy salads for crunch
  • Bake apples for a delicious dessert

Click here for more apple recipes.

2. Avocados

Why avocados are good for your heart

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Often referred to as “the fruit with healthy fats,” avocados are a good source of fiber and include nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, replacing dietary saturated fat with foods containing unsaturated fats, like those found in avocados, can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Shopping for avocados

Choose avocados that are firm but give slightly when pressed with a finger. These are ripe and ready to eat. If you buy a hard avocado, leave it on your counter for a couple of days to allow it to ripen. Refrigerate when ripe for up to five days.

MEAL IDEAS FOR AVOCADOS

  • Try replacing buttered toast with mashed avocado toast
  • Dice or slice as a topping for soups, salads or sandwiches
  • Blend into a smoothie for an extra creamy consistency
  • Mash into a delicious guacamole dip

Click here for more avocado recipes.

3. Spinach

Why spinach is good for your heart

Spinach is one of the most versatile ingredients and a good to excellent source of vitamins A, C and folate, as well as minerals such as manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron. It is also a good source of fiber and even contributes a small amount of protein to the diet.

Thanks to these nutrients, spinach is not only great for your heart, but it also helps boost eye health and reduce blood pressure.

Shopping for spinach

When in the produce section of the grocery store, select spinach that is uniformly green in color, not wilted, clean, and free from visible dirt and damage. For convenience, you can buy spinach pre-washed and/or frozen, which is equally nutritious.

MEAL IDEAS FOR SPINACH

  • Add into scrambled eggs or a quiche
  • Sneak a handful into a smoothie (don’t worry, it won’t change the taste!)
  • Eat fresh leaves as a salad or layer into a sandwich or wrap
  • Add into casseroles, quesadillas, a stir fry or pasta dishes

Click here for more spinach recipes.

4. Salmon

Why salmon is good for your heart

Salmon has become a fish of choice for many Americans. Salmon is an excellent source of protein and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that have been shown to help reduce cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other health conditions. Omega-3s also help prevent stroke-causing blood clots and reduce inflammation.

Shopping for salmon

First, when shopping for fresh salmon, if you can get close enough to smell it, you shouldn’t smell much of anything beyond a salty ocean breeze. Any fish that “smells fishy” is likely not fresh.

Another good indicator of freshness is color. Salmon should appear moist, vibrantly colored and lacking any brown spots. However, don’t assume that fresh is the only option. Frozen salmon filets are a wonderful choice for a guaranteed fresh and quality option.

MEAL IDEAS FOR SALMON

Baked, grilled, poached, smoked—there are a variety of ways to cook salmon. Here are just a few.

  • Save leftovers to toss into pasta dishes or on top of a salad
  • Make salmon burgers from low-sodium canned salmon

5. Tomatoes

Why tomatoes are good for your heart

Eating tomatoes on a frequent basis can help reduce the risk of heart disease and may lower the risk for stroke. Tomatoes are high in lycopene that has been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and blood pressure. They are also high in vitamin C and potassium.

Consuming tomatoes along with a fat source like avocados or olive oil increases the absorption of its antioxidants, giving you the most bang for your buck.

Shopping for tomatoes

According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, there are 25,000 varieties of tomatoes. Tomatoes are available fresh and canned for good nutrition and convenience.

If selecting fresh, choose tomatoes with bright, shiny skins and firm flesh. Store them at room temperature away from direct sunlight, for use within one week after ripe. Tomatoes taste best if not refrigerated, so refrigerate them only if you can’t use them before they spoil.

MEAL IDEAS FOR tomatoes

There are limitless ways to use tomatoes in your diet, including:

  • Use canned, low-sodium diced tomatoes in soup and stews
  • Enjoy tomato sauce on whole grain pasta
  • Dice fresh tomatoes alongside eggs and hash browns for breakfast
  • Enjoy as a pico de gallo topping

For more inspiration, try these fresh tomato recipes.

As you can see, fortifying your diet with heart-healthy foods is easy and fun. For more information on heart-healthy eating, visit the American Heart Association.

If you’re looking for support on your journey to better heart health, talk to a heart specialist or find a registered dietitian near you.

About the author

Jessica Betts, MS, RDN, LD
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Jessica Betts, MS, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian with Baylor Scott & White Health Cardiac Rehabilitation.

5 foods that are good for your heart health