Health Care Lifestyle

5 Superfoods to Boost Your Heart Health

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Imagine a food so powerful it can fight heart disease by lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure — a food that’s able to multitask by keeping your heart rate normal and reduce inflammation.

The plant-based nutrition world is full of these “super foods” and you’re probably familiar with some of them, such as olive oil, nuts and salmon. But there are many more you can add to your diet so you can improve your heart health and live your best life.

Here are five heart-healthy super foods to pick up the next time you go grocery shopping. Your heart will thank you for it.

1. Black Beans

Black beans are part of the legume family. They contain folate, magnesium and antioxidants that may help lower blood pressure levels. Black beans also contain lots of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are helpful in lowering cholesterol levels and decreasing your risk of many chronic diseases. They can also help you stay fuller, longer. If using canned black beans, rinse them thoroughly to remove the extra sodium. (Too much salt is not good for your heart health).

A few other benefits of adding black beans into your diet include:

  • Healthier blood pressure levels: The potassium in black beans can help improve your blood pressure numbers.
  • Less constipation and bloating: The fiber helps you stay regular.
  • Lower bad cholesterol levels: Eating adequate fiber (at least 25 to 35 grams per day) can help decrease LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Protects your bones: The magnesium in black beans plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body including metabolism, and it's key for bone health too.

2. Edamame

Edamame beans are whole, immature soybeans, sometimes referred to as vegetable-type soybeans. These little nutrient powerhouses are green, sporting a different color than regular soybeans, which are usually tan, light brown or beige. You can find them at just about every health food store and they’re usually still encased in their pods, which should be removed before eating the beans inside. You can also buy shelled edamame without the pods. In the United States, most edamame is sold frozen.

Generally, you can easily heat the beans by boiling, steaming, pan-frying or microwaving them for a few minutes. They’re often prepared with a pinch of salt and added to soups, stews, salads and noodle dishes. They can also be eaten as a simply a delicious protein-packed snack.

Some benefits of adding edamame to your grocery list include:

  • Amino acids: Additionally, soybeans are a whole protein source. Unlike most plant proteins, they provide all the essential amino acids your body needs.
  • High protein: A of cooked edamame provides around 18.5 grams of heart-healthy plant-based protein.
  • Lower cholesterol levels: The fiber in these green soybeans helps lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels.
  • Reduced triglycerides: In addition to providing protein, edamame has also been shown to reduce triglyceride levels — and they make a delicious snack when boiled.

3. Swiss Chard

This vegetable (a cousin to beets) comes in a variety of stalk colors with beautiful green leaves. Swiss chard is rich in potassium and magnesium, which help control blood pressure. And it also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two heart-healthy antioxidants. Sauté it with a bit of olive oil until wilted and season with herbs and pepper for a delicious dish.

The added health benefits of eating these rainbow-stalked leafy greens include:

  • Low in calories: One cup of chopped Swiss chard has just 35 calories.
  • Nutrient-rich: Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse — an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as a great source of magnesium, potassium, iron and dietary fiber.
  • Phytonutrients: Swiss Chard has an impressive phytonutrient profile, easily recognized in its vibrant colors — from dark greens to red, purple, and a rainbow of colors in its stalks and veins. Phytonutrients are a source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and whole-body benefits.
  • Vitamin K: One cup of chopped swiss chard also provides more than 300% of the daily value for vitamin K.

4. Plant Sterols/Stanols

Sterols (or stanols) are naturally occurring plant extracts that are added to a variety of food items such as orange juice, margarine and soymilk. They’re considered “super foods” based on their ability to block the absorption of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol in the gut by 10%, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The benefits of adding plant sterols and stanols to your diet include:

  • Immune system boost: According to recent studies, plant sterols and stanols may play a crucial role in functioning of immune cells.
  • Lowers blood cholesterol significantly: When eaten in the right amounts and combined with a healthy lifestyle, plant sterols and stanols have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels by 10–15%.
  • May lower cancer risk: Studies show that people who consume the most phytosterols have a lower risk of stomach, lung, rectal, colon, breast and ovarian cancers.

5. Carrots

Research shows that carrots may help to reduce your risk for diabetes (a risk factor for heart disease) and contain soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol levels. Keep a bag of baby carrots handy for your next snack attack.

Health benefits of carrots include:

  • Cleans teeth and gums: Carrots act as a natural abrasive that scrubs away plaque and leftover food particles.
  • Immune system support: The vitamins in carrots give your immune system a much-needed boost, which can prevent the onset of common communicable diseases like colds and flu, and help your body heal faster if you do become sick.
  • Plenty of Potassium: One cup of raw carrots contains about 400 milligrams of potassium, an electrolyte that’s vital to your whole-person health.
  • Stroke prevention: A recent study found that women who ate carrots five times a week cut their risk of stroke by two-thirds when compared to women who only ate carrots once or less per month.

Your Heart Is in Good Hands With AdventHealth Well 65+

Protecting your heart goes beyond avoiding unhealthy foods. To lower your risk of heart disease, it’s also important to increase your intake of nutrient-rich and high-fiber foods, as well as healthy fats.

Your heart is a powerful, amazing organ. For more information about how to protect it for all it’s worth with a heart-healthy diet, visit your AdventHealth Well 65+ provider.

Read more informative articles about how to live your best life in our blog.

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