- Adopting a heart-healthy diet from an early age can contribute to a longer and healthier life. This includes diets such as Mediterranean, healthy US-Style, and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).
- During every meal, incorporate superfoods like olive oil, black beans, quinoa, walnuts, and salmon that have properties beneficial to cardiovascular health, though always in moderation due to their high fat or calorie content.
- Variety is key to enjoying these superfoods. This can range from incorporating them into dressings and coatings, to acting as the main ingredient in innovative recipes.
- Apart from maintaining a nutritious diet, portion control is also crucial in promoting heart health.
- The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides more comprehensive information about heart-health foods.
Looking after your heart has far-reaching advantages, such as lowering the risk of ailments like coronary illness, strokes, heart attacks, and even dementia. A significant step towards a healthy heart is by embracing a balanced diet consisting of nutrient-rich foods. Unfortunately, many individuals overlook their dietary habits until adverse cardiovascular signs appear.
Laying emphasis on the importance of an early nutritious intake for a healthy heart, Khaled Dajani, a cardiologist at Loyola University Medical Center, stated: “Adopting a heart-healthy diet at a young age can help you live longer and healthier.”
The American Health Association’s Recommendation
In their 2021 Dietary Guidance Scientific Statement, the American Heart Association suggested heart-healthy foods under the Mediterranean, Healthy US-Style, and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Key foods within these diets include dark leafy greens, whole grains, fish, nuts, plant-based oils, whole fruits, lean meats, beans, and legumes.
Top 5 Superfoods for a Healthy Heart
Let’s delve into the top five foods for heart health within these categories and offer simple ways to incorporate them in your daily meals.
Olive oil records the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat, beneficial for heart health according to the AHA. It aids in lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) and boosting the good cholesterol (HDL). To ensure a controlled intake, stick to 1 to 3 tablespoons per day as olive oil is high in fat.
Ways to enjoy olive oil:
- Dip whole-wheat bread into olive oil instead of using butter.
- Toss pasta in a light mix of olive oil, pepper, and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese in place of creamy sauces.
- Opt for homemade dressings of olive oil, vinegar, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder over store-bought options.
Quinoa, a grain native to South America, is rich in fiber and boasts antioxidant properties along with all nine essential amino acids. These components help in cell protection and reduction of disease risk. The AHA suggests consuming at least three servings of whole grains like quinoa daily.
Ways to enjoy quinoa:
- Combine quinoa with black beans for a protein-rich vegetarian burger.
- Add quinoa in soups instead of noodles or rice.
- Enhance your salad’s nutrition by adding quinoa.
- Amp up your breakfast game by adding cinnamon, honey, and peaches to quinoa as a healthy oatmeal substitute.
Black beans come packed with fiber, a nutrient that helps in the maintenance of sound cholesterol levels and reduces the chances of heart disease. Dubbed as a superfood, black beans are also rich in protein.
Ways to enjoy black beans:
- Substitute beef with low-fat black beans in various dishes.
- Mix them with quinoa for a protein-packed meal.
- Add them in fruit and vegetable-based salsa and dips for an added fiber boost.
Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a substance that transforms into omega-3 fatty acids which aid in heart health by lowering triglyceride fats in the body. However, since they are high in calories, consumption should be limited to less than one cup per week.
Ways to enjoy walnuts:
- Enhance your desserts with a handful of walnuts.
- Add them in fruit salads for an exciting crunch.
- Chop them finely to use as a coating for your favorite lean or plant-based meals.
Salmon is not only packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids but also abundant in vitamin B6, which helps maintain an optimal level of homocysteine, an amino acid that supports heart health. Regular intake of two (3-Ounce) servings of salmon can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Ways to enjoy salmon:
- Sauté it with olive oil and a bit of mango juice.
- Top it with teriyaki sauce and serve it over quinoa.
- Bake it with hints of lemon juice, minced garlic, and cilantro for a tasty dish.
Remember, though, while choosing to eat healthily, portion control is crucial. As Dajani puts it: “Even when you eat healthy foods, it’s important not to overeat. Knowing what and how much to eat is a skill everyone should learn.”
For more comprehensive information about heart-health foods, you can refer to the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.