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Tasty Foods for Your Heart

Add these to your menu to improve cardiovascular health

Photo: Display of foods: lemons, salmon, tomatoes, cheese, dry pasta, leeks, bok choy.

Eating heart-healthy isn't just about things you should avoid. You can enjoy delicious foods that are known to help lower your risk of heart disease or improve your health after a heart attack.

A heart-friendly diet is built on a few key items: vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Mix up the colors for a variety of nutrients—like potassium, which helps keep blood pressure steady. Sweet potatoes, tomatoes, dark greens, and beans are good sources of potassium. Add the following foods to your menu to make it even better for your heart.

Guacamole
Avocados contain healthy fats. Researchers found that people who ate a daily diet that included avocados for five weeks saw improvement in their LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.

Tuna melt
Fish is high in protein and a source of essential vitamin D. The American Heart Association recommends two servings a week. Albacore tuna contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for a steady heartbeat and reduced triglycerides. Make a tuna sandwich on whole wheat, and add a slice of cheese for calcium.

Nuts
According to a Harvard University study, eating a handful of nuts twice a week can help prevent cardiovascular problems. A handful of walnuts are a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s.

Dark chocolate
If you're going to have an occasional treat, one containing compounds that help lower blood pressure is hard to top. A 2017 study found that dark chocolate may also lower the risks of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rate). Choose chocolate with 70 percent or more cacao, and keep the serving to a 1-inch square.

 

A GOOD PLAN
It turns out the traditional diet of people who live in the Mediterranean region is really good for the heart. Studies show that eating like people do in Italy and Greece improves cholesterol and reduces risk of heart disease. They eat lots of vegetables and fruits—7 to 10 servings a day. They eat whole grain bread instead of white bread, and olive oil instead of butter. Red meat is eaten only a few times a month, but fish is eaten at least once a week. Variety is important.

 

The Mediterranean Diet
• Vegetables and fruits
• Whole grains
• Lean protein, like fish and chicken
• Olive and canola oils
• Herbs and spices instead of salt
• Nuts