Healthy Foods You Should Add to Your Diet

Healthy Foods focuses on eating healthy fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in order to lower cholesterol levels, keep your blood pressure healthy, and prevent heart disease. But which foods are heart-healthy? Here are eight foods that will go a long way toward keeping your ticker in tip-top shape.

1) Leafy Greens

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Leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce and kale are excellent sources of calcium. Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth, as well as muscle contractions like your heartbeat. Spinach has been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and helps maintain normal blood pressure levels in your body. In addition, consuming foods high in vitamin K can help keep blood clotting functioning properly; spinach contains a variety of flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory effects on your body, which may lower your risk of heart disease. Greens are also an excellent source of iron—and two servings per day may be more beneficial than one. When paired with vitamin C (found in oranges or orange juice), it’s even better absorbed by your body so you can replenish low iron stores!

2) Beans, Lentils, Peas

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Although legumes don’t contain any cholesterol, they are high in fiber and protein, which helps reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels. Opt for low-sodium varieties or rinse them before eating if you’re worried about sodium content. They can easily be added to soups, chili, and salads or mixed into a veggie burger for extra nutrition. Beans also pack about 20 grams of protein per cup—that makes them a great option as an alternative to meat.

3) Nuts & Seeds

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A source of protein, healthy fats and a whole host of vitamins and minerals, nuts and seeds can play an important role in heart health. Opt for unsalted varieties whenever possible—but remember that salt isn’t all bad. Eating moderate amounts will help you better manage your blood pressure and blood sugar. Aim for a handful of nuts or seeds a day—and try mixing it up to include walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, flaxseeds or sunflower seeds.

4) Berries

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Berries are a great option for heart health. Blueberries, in particular, contain high levels of anthocyanins—powerful antioxidants that can decrease your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Also try strawberries and raspberries, both top sources of ellagic acid (another type of antioxidant). Just make sure they’re fresh; frozen berries are high in sugar.

5) Avocado

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Avocados are a good source of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure levels. Half an avocado delivers nearly 30 percent of your daily recommended amount of potassium. Additionally, avocados contain about 13 grams of monounsaturated fat per serving, as well as Vitamins C and E that boost immunity. This fruit also contains folic acid, which can lower heart disease risk by helping cells convert homocysteine into methionine. Finally, avocados have phytosterols that act as antioxidants in your body; they have been linked to reduced cholesterol and cancer prevention.

6) Fish & Seafood

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When you’re eating healthfully, it’s natural to think about snacking on nuts and fruits. Fish and seafood can be some of your best options for a quick, protein-packed snack that won’t leave you feeling overstuffed afterward. For example, tuna fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids—good fats that may help keep your heart healthy. Salmon is another great choice for its high omega-3 content and also as an added bonus: It contains vitamin D, which helps protect against heart disease by strengthening bones and regulating blood pressure. These are just two examples of heart-healthy seafood; click here for a full list of benefits associated with each different fish variety.

7) Soy Products

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Soy products are low in calories and high in protein. They are considered a complete protein source because they contain all of the essential amino acids that your body cannot make on its own. Soy also contains phytochemicals called isoflavones, which help reduce heart disease by preventing blood platelets from sticking together and decreasing cholesterol levels. Some research has suggested that soy may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, but more research is needed to determine whether soy can actually help prevent heart disease. Try adding tofu or edamame to your diet—they’re both easy ways to increase soy consumption while cooking.

8) Oats and Oatm8) Oats and Oatmealeal

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A thick bowl of oatmeal is a fantastic start to your day. Oats are rich in soluble fiber, which means they can help lower cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels steady. In fact, one study found that eating 3 grams of soluble fiber per day reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10 percent over four weeks. The best part about oats? You don’t have to go overboard with toppings or sweeteners—the heartiness of them helps keep you satisfied for hours without needing much else on top.