Improve Your Heart Health One Food at a Time

Written by: Melissa Hawthorne, MS, RD, CDCES, LD

During the month of February one can see an abundance of hearts mainly from the Valentine’s Day advertisements

or through the candy aisle. Appropriately enough, February is also deemed National Heart Month, to bring awareness to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. On average 600,000 people die from this disease annually in the United States; that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths. These statistics are shocking, but the good news is that you can reduce your risk of heart disease simply by paying attention to the foods you eat. Here are 5 foods to add to your diet to help reduce your risk of heart disease:

Omega-3 Fatty Fish – Salmon, tuna, trout and sardines are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats may reduce your risk of heart disease as well as act as an anti-inflammatory, reduce the risk of vascular clotting and raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) Recommendation: Eat 6 ounces of Omega-3 fatty fish per week (*If you don’t like these types of fish, you can take a fish oil supplement)

Almonds – All nuts have wonderful heart health characteristics: lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), contain antioxidants and heart healthy fats both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Almonds are great because of their high amounts of Vitamin E. Two-ounces of almonds contains 14 mg of Vitamin E and the daily recommended intake is 15 mg. Whole foods, not supplements, have been shown to be most effective in reducing the risk for heart disease.

Oat bran – This bran contains high amounts of soluble fiber that has been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Studies found that eating 2-10 grams of soluble fiber a day lowered LDL cholesterol. ¼ c. of dry oat bran = 3 grams of soluble fiber. Other foods that contain soluble fiber: peas, beans, oatmeal, spinach, oranges, bananas, pears, apples, potatoes w/ skin and kidney beans

Garlic – Garlic, as well as, onions, leeks and scallions contain sulfur compounds. Eating as little as one clove of garlic a day may help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk for heart disease and boost your immunity.

Cacao powder – Cacao contains more antioxidants per serving than green tea or red wine. Studies show that when consuming products with a high percentage of cacao they reported an increase in blood vessel dilation and blood flow; both signs of reduced risk of heart disease.