9 Superfoods for Your Heart
The aisles of your local grocery store are packed with powerful protection for your heart. Here are nine superfoods that can defend against artery-attacking LDLs, shield you from the damaging forces of free radicals, combat high cholesterol, and keep your heart healthy.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Almonds
Secret Superpowers: Monounsaturated fat, magnesium, calcium, potassium, fibre.
Suggested Serving Size: 30 g (about 24 almonds; 160 calories).
In Action: A single serving of these crunchy, protein-packed nuggets provides 9 g of monounsaturated fat to help cut LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Simply choosing almonds instead of a donut, chips or pretzels for two snacks a day could cut LDL levels by nearly 10 per cent. A serving of almonds also gives 10 per cent of your daily calcium quota and 25 per cent of the magnesium you need.
Bonus: You get 60 per cent of the recommended amount of vitamin E, an artery-protecting antioxidant, as well as 2 g of fibre. Just be sure to stop at one handful at snack time-advice that holds true for all nuts because they’re calorie-dense.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Apples
Secret Super Powers: Antioxidants, fibre.
Suggested Serving Size: 1 medium (85 calories).
In Action: Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Gala apples are among the foods richest in antioxidants, thanks to large quantities of the flavonoid quercetin. (Flavonoids are natural chemicals in plants that, in your bloodstream, remove free radical molecules, fight inflammation and impede cancer.)
Bonus: Apples are a rich source of pectin, a soluble fibre. In a recent study at the University of California, people who ate two apples a day had fewer oxidized, artery-attacking LDLs than non-apple eaters-endorsing the old “apple a day” theory.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Carrots
Secret Super Powers: Good source of beta-carotene, an artery-protecting antioxidant.
Suggested Serving Size: 1/2 cup cooked (30 calories).
In Action: Carrots contain very high levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that guards against artery-clogging oxidized LDL cholesterol. Only foods like carrots offer this protection-recent studies suggest that antioxidant pills don’t help protect your heart.
Cooked carrots have twice the antioxidant power of raw carrots because heat breaks down tough cell walls so that your body can use what’s inside. Carrots, which are rich in fibre, also provide blood pressure-lowering potassium, homocysteine-lowering folate; vitamin B6; and the antioxidants alpha carotene and beta carotene.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Lean Beef
Secret Super Powers: Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, stearic acid, iron, zinc.
Suggested Serving Size: 100 g (177 calories).
In Action: In addition to its protein, a 100 g serving of lean beef provides more than 100 per cent of the RDA for vitamins B12 and B6. The body needs both to convert homocysteine into other, benign molecules (high homocysteine levels are associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and with osteoporosis). And while beef is a major source of saturated fat, a third of it is stearic acid, which has a neutral or even beneficial effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Garlic
Secret Super Powers: Contains allicin and other sulphur compounds which may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Suggested Serving Size: One or two small cloves, approximately 4 g (4 calories).
In Action: Your heart may benefit from regular garlic consumption. The compounds in garlic can be good for the heart, helping to lower blood pressure and to suppress production of harmful LDL cholesterol in the liver. In Germany, processed garlic is the basis of a drug used for lowering blood pressure. Garlic also adds a delicious flavour to food for very few calories and may well help you to cut your salt intake.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Kidney Beans
Secret Super Powers: Soluble fibre, folate, potassium, magnesium.
Suggested Serving Size: 1/2 cup (118 calories).
In Action: Eating beans four times a week-as baked beans, in dips, chili or a salad sprinkled with chickpeas or black beans-could lower your risk of coronary heart disease. Make some of them kidney beans; they’re rich in LDL-lowering soluble fibre and homocysteine-controlling folate, as well as blood pressure-easing potassium and magnesium.
Bonus: Thanks to healthy doses of fibre and protein, beans give you steady energy, not a sudden rise (and fall) of blood sugar that raises your risk of metabolic syndrome and weight gain.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Walnuts
Secret Super Powers: More omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut.
Suggested Serving Size: 25 g (14 halves; 160 calories).
In Action: One serving of walnuts contains 2.6 g of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that helps to prevent blood clots and promote a healthy heartbeat. Walnuts are also rich in vitamin B6, which helps to control homocysteine. In one study, people who ate 40 g walnuts every day for six weeks cut levels of extra-harmful very low density lipoproteins by 27 per cent. These delicious nuts also provide the amino acid arginine, which helps your body to produce nitric acid, a molecule that relaxes constricted blood vessels.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Oatmeal
Secret Super Powers: Cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre, slow-release carbohydrates that won’t make your blood sugar spike.
Suggested Serving Size: 1/2 cup dry (150 calories).
In Action: Beta-glucan, the soluble fibre in oats, acts like a sponge in your intestines, absorbing cholesterol-rich bile acids and eliminating them. The result is lower LDL cholesterol. Having a big bowl of oatmeal each day could cut cholesterol by 2 to 3 per cent. Soluble fibre may also help to lower blood pressure.
Superfoods for Your Heart: Watermelon
Secret Super Powers: Lycopene, potassium.
Suggested Serving Size: Medium slice (about 200 g; about 62 calories).
In Action: Don’t save delicious watermelons for summer; the fruit and vegetable section in your grocery store probably stocks it for much of the year. One 200 g slice packs about 275 mg of blood pressure-lowering potassium. Also inside is lots of the antioxidant lycopene.
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