February is National Heart Month, a good time to think about what foods we can include to keep our hearts healthy. When thinking about a heart healthy diet, we might think about the things we should not eat or limit. Saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium are all things that we should be mindful of to lower our risk of heart disease, but what foods can help protect our hearts?
Below are some heart-happy foods:
Walnuts. All nuts are part of a heart healthy diet, high in the good fat (unsaturated), but walnuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, reducing inflammation in the body. Walnuts can be eaten as a snack, mixed into a trail mix with dried fruit and whole grain cereal, or added to oatmeal or baked goods.
Avocados. Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats, potassium, and magnesium, which all are helpful for keeping a healthy blood pressure. Sliced avocados on top of multigrain toast is a great way to start your morning, or of course, it’s delicious in guacamole!
Oats. Oats, high in soluble fiber, are like tiny sponges to help soak up cholesterol in our blood stream and help clean up our blood. Don’t like oatmeal? Try making baked oatmeal with your favorite mix-ins like pumpkin, maple syrup, nuts, or apples and cinnamon
Flaxseed. High in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are a great heart-healthy mix-in. Flaxseeds need to be ground for the body to be able to utilize the omega 3 fatty acids. Add 1-2 tablespoons to yogurt with granola or your favorite hot cereal.
Herbs and spices. These help keep our dishes heart-healthy. Herbs like parsley, basil, and mint supply vitamins and minerals that can support a healthy heart. Get creative with different cuisines and spices. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne have anti-inflammatory properties and add flavor to dishes without adding salt.
Which of these heart-happy foods do you already enjoy and which ones can you add into your lineup?
Post by Stephanie Long, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator