To keep your ticker in top shape, make heart-savvy choices at every meal. That means keeping a few principles in mind:
- Eat more plant-based foods.
- Reach for whole grains and veggies to boost your fiber.
- Dial back your salt intake.
- Go for "good" fats from nuts, olive oil, and fish. Limit saturated fats found in meat and dairy foods, and avoid trans fats from chips and other junk food.
The good news: Heart-healthy eating can be surprisingly simple and scrumptious. Start with these 11 meal ideas -- and get creative in your kitchen.
1. Blueberry Smoothie: A Satisfying Morning Sip
Vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 cup
1 or 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds
Whir it all in a blender with a few drops of vanilla extract. Add a splash of apple juice if it’s too thick. Drink immediately.
Benefits: Flaxseeds are a top source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. They also contain healthy omega-3 fats, which can lower your triglyceride levels. Plant chemicals in blueberries may help protect blood vessels against damage. And Greek yogurt contains more protein than other yogurt, which keeps you satisfied and less likely to overeat.
2. Muesli: A Better Bowl of Cereal
Old--fashioned rolled oats, 1/2 cup
Raisins or other dried fruit, 1/2 cup
Raw walnuts or almonds, 1/2 cup
1 apple, grated
Plain, low-fat yogurt, 3 cups
Combine ingredients. This makes enough for several servings, and tastes even better in a day or two, as liquid from the yogurt and apple softens the oats.
Benefits: Soluble fiber in the oats and apple help lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol, while the nuts contain heart-protective unsaturated fats.
3. Tomato-Poached Egg: A Savory Start
Tomato sauce, 1/2 cup
Simmer the sauce in a small nonstick skillet, adding a sprinkle of your favorite seasonings, such as minced garlic, basil, or oregano. Crack the egg into the sauce, cover the pan, and cook until the egg white is no longer transparent. Serve over whole-wheat toast.
Benefits: Tomato sauce, garlic, and herbs all contain heart-protective antioxidants, while wholegrain toast provides beneficial fiber. Newman says research suggests that a "naked egg," cooked without fat, is a heart-safe choice.
4. Humus: The Original Bean Dip
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 teaspoon of sesame tahini
1 clove of garlic, minced
Combine ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth, adjusting proportions to taste. Add a little water to thin the dip. Season with salt and pepper. Serve ¼ cup of hummus with baby carrots.
Benefits: Chickpeas and carrots are loaded with cholesterol-busting soluble fiber. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and may slow blood clotting.
5. Black Bean Salsa Taco: Fast, Fresh Flavor
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 fresh tomato, chopped
Frozen corn, 1 cup, thawed
Whole wheat tortillas, 1 per person or 15 corn tortilla chips per person