From asparagus to sweet potatoes to a robust cabernet -- every bite (or sip)
of heart-healthy foods delivers a powerful dose of phytonutrients that prevent
and repair damage to cells. That's the essence of preventing heart disease.
"There really is an abundance of fruits and vegetables in many
colors, shapes, sizes that are good for your heart," says Julia Zumpano, RD,
LD, a dietitian with the Preventive Cardiology Center at The Cleveland Clinic.
"You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by
eating these foods every day."
Indeed, fresh produce provide the cornerstone for a heart-healthy diet because they help
wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting blood vessels.
It's what Zumpano calls "the whole-foods diet. You want everything to be in
its natural form, as it comes from the ground, the less processed the better,"
Whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, fatty fish, and teas are just as
important -- offering all sorts of complex heart-protective phytonutrients.
That's why variety is best in selecting heart-healthy foods, says Suzanne
Farrell, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and owner
of Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver.
"Everyone's looking for that one magic food," Farrell tells WebMD. "But
heart-healthy is not only about oatmeal and omega-3 fats. You need to look for
ways to get all the different nutrients. Plus, you'll stick to a heart-healthy
lifestyle longer if you have variety."
With the help of these nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic and the
American Dietetic Association, we've put together a list of the "best of the
best" heart-healthy foods.
The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and
blood vessels. We've also got menu ideas -- so you can easily bring
heart-healthy foods into your daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Omega-3 fatty acids.
Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta
or salad later on.
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.
Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits,
morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.