When it comes to heart health, runners and athletes are already a step ahead of the game. Regular exercise lowers cardiovascular disease risk by boosting “good” HDL cholesterol, decreasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and managing blood pressure.
Other lifestyle factors, such as stress, sleep, smoking and nutrition also play a big role in keeping your heart healthy.
In honor of February being National Heart Health Month, we’ve teamed up with registered dietitian Alissa Palladino at Good Measure Meals to share some of the best foods for heart health. Incorporate these heart-healthy foods into your diet this month- and all year long- to boost your cardiovascular fitness!
Nuts & Seeds:
From almonds and walnuts to chia and flax, nuts and seeds are naturally great sources of heart-healthy, unsaturated fat plus fiber. These two nutrients keep your heart healthy by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Nuts and seeds also contain magnesium, a mineral involved in heart contraction and blood pressure regulation.
- Top your salad, yogurt or cereal with chopped walnuts or pecans
- Enjoy a handful of cashews, almonds or pistachios for a satisfying snack
- Add chia or ground flax seeds to baked goods, oatmeal, and smoothies
Like all whole grains, oats promote heart health due to their high fiber content. Oats are especially high in a type of soluble fiber called beta glucan, which is associated with decreased LDL cholesterol and lower risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Enjoy oats hot or cold for breakfast
- Use in baked goods recipes to replace some refined flour
- Toast along with nuts, dried fruit and honey or maple syrup to make your own granola
Beans & Legumes:
Unlike animal protein sources, beans and legumes provide plant-based protein with zero saturated fat. (High intakes of saturated fat are associated with increased LDL cholesterol and heart disease.) They are also excellent source of fiber, magnesium, potassium and other heart-healthy nutrients.
- Roast chickpeas in the oven with a little olive oil, herb and spices for a crunchy snack
- Use kidney, navy or cannellini beans in a vegetarian chili or minestrone soup
- Combine black beans, corn and rice for a meatless Mexican-style meal
Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are excellent protein sources that are low in saturated fat and high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
- Grill or bake fish along with veggies and potatoes for simple, balanced dinner
- Enjoy raw salmon in sushi
- Add canned tuna to a salad or in a wrap for an easy, protein-packed lunch
Fruits & Vegetables:
While all produce is packed with heart-healthy fiber plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, those high in potassium are particularly beneficial for your heart. Bananas, potatoes, melon, oranges, spinach and broccoli top the list for potassium content, a mineral that helps reduce blood pressure and is essential for heart contraction.
- Fresh fruit and raw veggies make great snacks any time of day
- Throw spinach and a variety of fruit into your morning smoothie
- Roast white or sweet potatoes with a little olive oil
- Blend frozen bananas for a potassium-rich, naturally sweet ice cream alternative
Want more ideas and inspiration? From Overnight Oats and Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins to Lentil Sloppy Joes and Quinoa and Black Bean Salad, you’ll find tons of easy, delicious recipes featuring these heart-healthy ingredients on the Good Measure Meals blog.
For those of you in the Atlanta area, check out the Good Measure Meals website where you can browse upcoming menus and learn more about nutrition counseling services. Use the code MIZUNO to save 10% off any meal plan or nutrition service.