Valentine’s Day is here, but did you know is also American Heart Month? What better way to celebrate than by loving yourself with foods that promote a healthy heart! As you probably already know, heart disease is no small problem in America. According to the CDC, 2 million Americans suffer heart attacks or strokes every year. Luckily, the food choices we make can play a significant role in preventing heart disease. Not to mention, there are tons of delicious heart-healthy options out there!
A group of experts from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Cleveland Clinic put together a list of heart-healthy foods that should be incorporated into our diets. Here are the top 5 foods they chose and why they are so good for us!
Why it’s so good for us: Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Chances are you have seen this term on food labels at the grocery stores. Omega-3’s decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing inflammation, preventing arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), lowering triglyceride levels, and slowing the growth of plaques.
How to incorporate it: The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of salmon or other fish at least two times a week. Salmon can easily be grilled or baked and served alone or atop your favorite salad. You can also mix it up by baking and shredding it into smaller pieces and making salmon tacos!
Why it’s so good for us: Flaxseeds are another great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and are also high in fiber. Fiber reduces LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol that can lead to heart disease. It also makes you feel full and can help prevent over-eating.
How to incorporate it: Ground flaxseed can easily be added into a variety of foods. You can sprinkle it on your cereal or yogurt, or add a teaspoon into your favorite baked goods such as muffins or pancakes. You can also use flaxseed oil as a salad dressing.
Why it’s so good for us: Oatmeal is another great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. It also contains magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, and calcium. These are all important micronutrients for keeping blood pressure in check as well as overall health.
How to incorporate it: Oatmeal for breakfast is a great choice and can be prepared differently every day. Try adding different fruits, spices, or sprinkle on some ground flaxseed (remember food #2?)! You can also try sprinkling oatmeal on yogurt, and oatmeal cookies make a great occasional treat.
How to incorporate them: Black beans can be used in a variety of recipes. They’re a great ingredient in soups or stews, salads, dips, or even by themselves as a side. They’re also a great ingredient in quesadillas or tacos.
Why they’re so good for us: Almonds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folate, magnesium, monounsaturated fats, and vitamin E. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are “good” fats that help control our cholesterol levels. Vitamin E is thought to help prevent the formation of plaques and blood clots that lead to heart disease.
How to incorporate them: Almonds can be mixed into trail mixes, cereal, or yogurts, but a handful of plain almonds makes a great snack too! Crushed or slivered almonds are a great way to add them to salads, cooked vegetables, baked goods, or even mixed in with soup.