Salmon helps increase your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), otherwise known as "good cholesterol," which can help lower your risk for heart disease. Because it's packed with mega-3 fatty acids and plenty of protein, the American Heart Association says shoot for two servings a week.
Raimo: "Salmon is terrific because of its a great source of omega-3s. Some other great sources of omega-3s include krill oil, nuts, & seeds."
Blueberries contain anthocyanins, the antioxidant which gives this fruit its dark blue color. They also have plenty of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and other nutrients. They're also great because they can be added to other things, like whole-grain cereals, a salad--even pancakes!
Raimo: "What a power food! Blueberries are high in antioxidants and fiber, which helps lower cholesterol."
Soy is high in fiber and low in saturated fats. It also lowers "bad cholesterol" levels and triglycerides, helping prevent heart disease. Incorporating soy milk into your diet in some capacity is a great way to get your soy fix.
Raimo: "I suggest eating soy in its whole-food form, edamame . The more processed items, the less the true benefit."
Oatmeal is high in fiber, folate and omega-3 fatty acids. The oats can help keep your arteries clear and levels of "bad cholesterol" down. It's a true power food.
Raimo: "Oats are a nutritious whole-grain. If you are eating instant oatmeal, give rolled oats a try. To get even more benefit, try steel cut oats because they contain more nutrients and fiber than instant alternatives. I love to put blueberries or goji berries , nuts, cinnamon, and a bit of molasses in mine!"
If it's good enough for Popeye, it's good enough for you. Spinach contains a ton of potassium, calcium, fiber and B-complex vitamins. This combination defends your heart and also helps fight disease and protects your eyesight.
Raimo: "People aren't eating enough greens and these foods are some of the very best available! Spinach is high in iron, calcium, magnesium, and other essential minerals for good health. I'd suggest putting them in a breakfast smoothie, between your sandwich, or stir frying them as part of a quick meal at dinner."
Nuts include plenty of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. If you're tired of peanut butter, add pecans to your salad, eat raw almonds as a snack or make homemade granola with walnuts.
Raimo: "Almonds, pistachios, macadamias, walnuts, pecans and so much more! Add them to your oatmeal, eat a few as a snack, create your own healthy 'trail mix', add slivered almonds to a quick kale stir fry, and try almond butter instead of peanut butter to break out of a rut."
Researchers have found that eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate has a blood-thinning effect, which can help your heart health and reduce inflammation. For maximum health benefits: Limit yourself to one ounce a day and remember to look for labels with 70 percent or more cocoa content.
Raimo: "Arguably one of my favorite health foods. Dark chocolate has minerals your body needs, fiber, and epicatechins which have been shown to increase endurance rates in athletes. The darker it is, the closer it is to its whole food source - cacao."
Legumes are low in fat, high in fiber and help improve cholesterol levels.Look for the more colorful beans (red or purple) because they usually contain extra flavonoids , which are chemicals that act as antioxidants and can protect against heart disease.
Raimo: "Beans are a terrific source of plant-based proteins, with healthy carbohydrates and fiber to help reduce cholesterol. Hummus is an easy way to get beans into your diet - you can use chickpeas, black beans, or kidney beans to make it!"
Olive oil is full of "good" monounsaturated fats, which helps lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, but be careful with how often and liberally you use it because all types of fat are high in calories. Extra-virgin or virgin olive oil are less processed and contain more polyphenols and antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation.
Raimo: "Lots of polyphenols which is good for the heart, but use in moderation and buy unrefined."
Bonus Super DRINK: Green tea
One of the best "foods" for your heart is actually a drink. A steaming cup of green tea is full of catechins and flavonols.
Raimo: "Fabulous antioxidant drink!"
Adrienne Raimo, R.D., is the Founder and Director of One Bite Wellness, a nutrition consulting company for individuals and corporations. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: OneBiteWellness.com .
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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