Time to try new foods for heart health

Heart-Healthy Foods You Probably Don’t Eat Very Often

Doctors and healthcare professionals have been telling us for just about forever about heart healthy foods – we know how good salmon, olive oil and spinach are for our tickers. But there are so many other types of food out there you can include in your diet that can add variety to your plate while reducing your risk of heart disease.

Here are some of the heart-healthy foods you might not eat very often.

Walnuts

Studies have found that walnuts are the best nut for heart health. That’s due to walnuts not only having more antioxidants, but better quality antioxidants than other popular nuts. Antioxidants protect your cells from the damage caused by harmful molecules in your system, known as free radicals.

“Nuts are great for your heart – they can help lower your cholesterol, reduce the damage caused by free radicals, and decrease unhealthy inflammation,” said Catherine O’Neil, M.D., physician at Bucknell Student Health.

Since walnuts tend to have more antioxidants than other nuts, they can work harder to fight free radical damage that can play a role in heart disease.

Brussel sprouts

As much as you might have turned your nose up at these leafy green veggies as a child, you might want to reconsider them. Brussel sprouts contain large doses of folate, a.k.a. folic acid.

“Folate might reduce your homocysteine levels, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attacks,” Dr. O’Neil said. Homocysteine is an amino acid in your blood; having too much of is related to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. High homocysteine levels may also promote fatty deposits in blood vessels.

Brussel sprouts also contain a high amount of soluble fiber compared to other vegetables.

“Fiber helps lower your blood cholesterol level and reduces your risk of several types of heart disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke,” Dr. O’Neil explained.

Almond milk

Not only is almond milk high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but it is also heart healthy. Unlike traditional cow’s milk, almond milk doesn’t contain any cholesterol or saturated fats – those can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system.

“Almond milk is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your levels of LDL cholesterol, which is the bad kind. Lowering your levels of bad cholesterol means lowering your risk of heart disease,” Dr. O’Neil stated.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber – making it a heart-healthy addition to your diet.

“Studies have shown that flaxseed may have the ability to normalize your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure,” Dr. O’Neil said.

Other studies on flaxseed have shown that it may prevent the hardening of the arteries and keep plaque from being deposited in the arteries in addition to lowering cholesterol – it all adds up to a lower risk of heart disease. Incorporate ground flaxseed into your diet by hiding it in yogurt parfaits, smoothies, cereal, and homemade baked goods.

Tofu

Tofu, a soy protein, is high in folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and niacin.

“The soy protein in tofu can help reduce the level of bad cholesterol in your system,” Dr. O’Neil said. Not sure how to eat tofu? Try marinating a thin slice of tofu for a few hours and then grilling or stir-frying it.

Papaya

This tropical food is rich in folate, beta carotene, vitamins C and E, fiber and more.

“Papayas’ high amount of dietary fiber can help lower bad cholesterol. And the vitamin C may help to increase blood flow to the heart by keeping arteries clear of plaque,” Dr. O’Neil said.

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