Imagine a food so powerful it can actually fight heart disease by lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure. Or, a food that’s able to multitask by keeping your heart rate normal and reducing inflammation.
The plant-based nutrition world is full of these “super foods” and you’re probably familiar with some of them: olive oil, nuts and salmon. But those aren’t the only ones to add to your diet to improve your heart health and help you feel your best.
Here are five super foods to pick up the next time you’re at the grocery store. Your heart will thank you.
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, can decrease your risk of many chronic diseases and can help you stay fuller, longer. If using canned black beans, rinse thoroughly to remove the extra sodium. A few other benefits of adding black beans into your diet include:
- 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
- Protection for 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
- Healthier blood pressure levels: The potassium in black beans can help improve your numbers
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 US, 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, or just eaten as a delicious protein-packed snack. Some benefits of adding edamame to your grocery list include:
- Lower cholesterol levels: The fiber in these green soybeans helps lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels
- High protein: A of cooked edamame provides around 18.5 grams of heart-healthy plant-based protein
- Reduced triglycerides: In addition to providing protein, edamame has also been shown to reduce triglyceride levels — and they make a delicious snack when boiled
- Fortified with amino acids: Additionally, soybeans are a whole protein source. Unlike most plant proteins, they provide all the essential amino acids your body needs
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 helps 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:
- Rich in nutrients: 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
- Low calories: One cup of chopped Swiss chard has just 35 calories
- Source of vitamin K: One cup of chopped swiss chard also provides more than 300% of the daily value for vitamin K
- Contains 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
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 the following:
- Significantly lowers blood cholesterol: 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 risk of cancer: Studies show that people who consume the most phytosterols have a lower risk of stomach, lung, rectal, colon, breast and ovarian cancers
- Immune system boost: According to recent studies, plant sterols and stanols may play a crucial role in functioning of immune cells
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.
- Cleans teeth and gums: Carrots act as a natural abrasive that scrubs away plaque and leftover food particles
- Plenty of Potassium: One cup of raw carrots contains about 400 milligrams of potassium, an electrolyte that’s vital to your whole-person health
- 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
- 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
Protecting your heart goes beyond avoiding unhealthy foods. To slash 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 AdventHealth.com/creation-life.