5 Foods to Eat for Improved Heart Health

5 Foods to Eat for Improved Heart Health

You are what you eat — and that may go double for your heart. That’s because what you eat can have a tremendous effect on how well your heart functions and increase your risk of heart disease, too.

The good news: Eating a heart-healthy diet can be surprisingly easy — and delicious, too. The key is focusing on incorporating a few “superfoods” with proven benefits for your heart.

At Primary Care Associates, our team of skilled, compassionate medical professionals is dedicated to providing patient-centered cardiovascular care aimed at helping women and men of all ages improve their heart health. Here are five foods they say you should add to your meal plan.

#1: Oats

Whole grains contain lots of fiber that help you feel full longer, making them a great choice if you’re trying to drop a few extra pounds. When it comes to heart health, oats offer plenty of other benefits, too.

Oats contain beta-glucan, a fiber that’s been shown in studies to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol — the kind of cholesterol that sticks to artery walls and increases the risks of heart attacks and strokes. When eating oats, be sure to choose the plain kind — not the presweetened packets of oatmeal that contain sugars and other additives.

#2: Salmon

A low-fat diet is important for heart health, but some fats are actually good for your heart. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce your “bad” cholesterol levels.

Sardines are also high in healthy fats, and since they’re canned, they’re a great pantry staple. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Not crazy about fish? You can get the same benefits from avocado and certain nuts and seeds, like walnuts and almonds. 

#3: Leafy green vegetables

You don’t have to be Popeye to appreciate the value of leafy greens. Spinach, kale, beet greens, lettuce, cabbage, and all sorts of salad greens are full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, a B vitamin that helps keep your heart healthy.

Recent research shows some greens — notably spinach, kale, broccoli, and parsley — also contain ample amounts of vitamin K, another crucial nutrient for a healthy heart.

#4: Berries

Dark-pigmented berries, like blueberries and blackberries, are high in anthocyanin, a chemical compound that gives these berries their dark color. Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve blood vessel health.

Black raspberries, black currants, and black plums also have high levels of anthocyanins (red fruits, like strawberries and red raspberries, have lower amounts). To lock in the benefits of these “super fruits,” incorporate them a few times a week, and opt for the fresh or frozen forms — berries baked into tarts, muffins, or other sweets don’t count. 

#5: Beans

Beans used to get kind of a bad rap — probably due in part to the unfortunate poem that immortalized them. (Beans, beans, the magical fruit …) It’s true, beans can cause gas — but that usually happens in people who aren’t used to the high fiber content in these little nutritional powerhouses.

In addition to heart-healthy fiber, beans are rich in magnesium, folate, and antioxidants, too. Low in fat, beans are packed with protein, making them a great meat alternative for anyone looking to reduce their consumption of saturated fats (the kind of fats that can raise your cholesterol).

Eating a healthy diet can do great things for your heart health — but it’s just one part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Staying physically active, getting plenty of sleep, and having routine blood pressure and cholesterol checks are important, too.

At Primary Care Associates, our team offers comprehensive cardiovascular care services for patients in Clarksburg and Frederick, Maryland. To schedule your checkup, book an appointment online or over the phone today.

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