Looking for the best foods for your heart? Discover 5 heart healthy foods that may surprise you
Following a heart healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to eat boring meals. If you have been reluctant to start eating foods that offer heart healthy benefits because you fear they will be tasteless or bland, we have pleasant surprise for you. Some of your favorite indulgences such as coffee, popcorn, and even chocolate have properties that can help prevent heart disease and enhance your health. Let’s take a closer look at some of the surprising foods that are good for your heart without sacrificing great taste:
You may have heard people touting the health benefits of green tea, but the latest studies show that black, white, and oolong tea made from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis also offer enough benefits to qualify as heart healthy superfoods. These teas all contain disease-fighting catechins, antioxidant phytochemicals that have been found to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One cup of tea can provide as much antioxidants as a serving of fruit or vegetables at a fraction of the calories, as long as you don’t load up on milk and sweetener. Studies indicate that drinking at least 3 cups of tea a day is necessary to realize noticeable health benefits.
Blueberries, strawberries, and other berries are heart-healthy “superfoods” that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These tasty little fruits contain a flavonoid compound called anthocyanin that protects cells from the damage caused by free radicals. According to a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate just one serving of blueberries a week were 10 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Chocolate is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you talk about heart healthy foods, but research has shown that eating a small serving of dark chocolate (bittersweet chocolate that has 70% or more cacao) will provide you with a ton of heart healthy benefits. There are flavonoids in dark chocolate that improve blood flow and help prevent stiffening of blood vessels in adults over 50. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants that reduce blood pressure and lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. As an added bonus, studies found that eating a small portion of dark chocolate each day improves insulin sensitivity, which can reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Be sure to limit yourself to just a small portion per day, however, because dark chocolate contains saturated fat, sugar, and a considerable amount of calories in addition to its heart healthy nutrients.
If your idea of popcorn is the gooey, buttery flavored tub that movie theaters sell, you might be surprised to hear that popcorn is a heart healthy food (provided you skip the flavored topping and oil!). Popcorn is a whole grain that is particularly rich in polyphenols, which are antioxidants that promote heart health. And air popped popcorn is only 30 calories per cup, giving you a great way to satisfy your snacking instinct without packing on extra weight that could put a strain on your heart.
Most people find it surprising that any food with “fatty” in the name could be good for your heart, but fatty fish are actually some of the best foods for your heart health. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, and other coldwater fatty fish are rich in a type of unsaturated fat known as omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health in several ways. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol, and reduce the inflammation that can lead to heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease the risk of arrhythmias and slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque. To get the most heart healthy boost, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish every week.