Heart Healthy Foods
The chance of having heart issues increases the older we get, so it becomes even more important to make sure that the foods we eat are doing positive things for our heart. Healthy dietary choices are quite simple to make.
Below you’ll find three delicious foods to include in your diet that have been shown to be good choices for your heart. As with any changes to your diet, consulting your doctor before making major switches is advised.
The power of the oat is mighty. It can not only be a delicious breakfast, in the form of oatmeal, but it can also be quite the heart-healthy food. In fact, oats are considered to be one of the healthiest grains on the planet. Just about anyone can eat oats, even those with gluten issues. The reason? Oats are gluten-free. Before there’s too much excitement, uncontaminated oats are in fact gluten-free. The issue of gluten arises when you factor in where the oats are manufactured. Most processing plants are also processing other grains, like wheat, which is not gluten-free. So, make sure you check the product if you have any gluten allergies.
Oats are an amazingly great source of important minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. Studies have shown time and again that oats eaten regularly can help with lowering blood sugar levels, weight loss, and, most importantly, reducing the risk of heart disease. Oats also contain a wide assortment of heart-healthy fats (Omega-3 fatty acids), more protein than other grains, and a great amount of fiber. With all the vitamins and minerals in oats, they are (per serving) one of the most nutrient-packed foods you can eat.
The key to oats, however, is what you add to them. Most people opt for oatmeal, adding sugar and butter, which is fine in very small quantities. But, instead of adding something not as healthy to a healthy food, consider the alternatives. By adding dried or fresh fruit, you will sweeten oatmeal up quite sufficiently and provide yourself with not only good flavor and endless combinations, but will also up the ante on vitamins, fiber, and minerals. You can also add nuts or seeds for an added heart healthy substitution. Cinnamon or other spices are also a good choice as an addition. Substituting heart healthy oatmeal instead of sugary cold cereal will keep you full longer, fill your stomach with warmth, and provide your heart (and body) with great heart healthy nutrition.
Now, hopefully you didn’t just read the headline and run off to enjoy a huge bar of milk chocolate, but put simply, chocolate is good for your heart.
A little more complex, specifically, dark chocolate is what’s actually good for your heart. Healthy dark chocolate is any chocolate that is 65% or more cacao. So that means that some dark chocolate isn’t dark enough to be considered heart healthy. The higher the percentage of cacao the better the chocolate is for you. Of course, like anything, moderation is key.
The reason behind this is quite simple. The higher percentage of cacao (which is the actual chocolate) the more antioxidants you get. The lower the percentage, reaching as far down as what’s known as ‘milk chocolate’ the less you get, while also getting an increase in other unhealthy things like sugar. Cacao is high in antioxidants, flavanols, and flavonoids. These are all things that have been shown to greatly decrease blood pressure, reduce cardiovascular disease, and more. So, again, the higher percentage of cacao, the more of these you get.
People that haven’t eaten much (or any) dark chocolate may be surprised by the lack of creaminess that milk chocolate has, as well as a hit of bitterness. Dark chocolate has no milk in it, removing the overtly creamy texture milk chocolate is famous for. Dark chocolate also doesn’t (typically) use added sugar, which is used to sweeten chocolate and make it less bitter. But, if you give dark chocolate a chance, you’ll find that the flavor profiles present can be as varied as wine. Notes of red berries, stone fruits, and cinnamon can be just some of the tasting notes of a good bar of dark chocolate. It can truly be a life changing experience, both for your palate and your health. A small warning though: chocolate does contain caffeine. So, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, speak to your doctor before consuming chocolate.
Nuts are some of the best foods you can eat. They’re a great snack by themselves, a welcomed addition to other foods, sweet or savory, and are great for your health, especially the heart. Eating nuts can actually trigger a chemical reaction in your brain that makes you feel happy. There’s a lot of research out there on the health benefits of nuts, but for the most part it’s safe to say that the biggest way that nuts help is with their density of lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
Lipoprotein is a good cholesterol that plays a key role in lowering the buildup of plaque in blood vessels. They can also help reduce the risk of developing blood clots that can bring about a fatal heart attack. Nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, and more. While eating nuts can have a bunch of health benefits, eating too many may add some unwanted weight gain. This is because nuts are calorie-dense (high fat, low water). While the fat present in nuts is good for your certain aspects of your health, it can still add pounds to your body that you may want to avoid. So, the best course of action is to eat them as a snack and in moderation.
The top three healthiest nuts are: Almonds, Walnuts, and Pistachios. Peanuts are not technically a nut, but still offer some of the same benefits as traditional nuts. Now, a lot of nuts have loads of added salt, flavors, and other unhealthy things. The best thing to do is to buy nuts labeled as raw, or dry-roasted, with no added salt. You want as pure a nut as possible. When you buy raw nuts, you can roast them yourself in an oven. This will bring out a richer flavor. Just put them on a baking sheet in a low temperature oven and watch closely.
When it comes to nuts, go nutty! They’re great for your heart health and they are a smart snack that makes you feel good. As with all foods, please consult your doctor before changing your diet. If you’re allergic to nuts, peanuts, or otherwise, then do not consume them.
Adding these heart healthy foods to your diet can greatly improve your health. While there are more heart healthy foods out these, research suggests that these are among the most beneficial. So enjoy some oats, dark chocolate, and nuts. Hey, try mixing all three! That sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Be well.
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