Show your heart some love
2/10/2022 by Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D.
February is the month of hearts, particularly yours. Here are 11 everyday foods that you can eat to your heart's content and help keep it healthy for a lifetime.
- Salmon. Fresh, canned or frozen, this versatile fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids that promote health. Trout, herring and mackerel are good, too.
- Oatmeal. Comforting on a winter's day, oatmeal is high in fiber and other heart-friendly nutrients. Choose quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats rather than instant.
- Berries. Blue or red, fresh or frozen, berries are little nutrient powerhouses, including antioxidants that your heart will love.
- Dark chocolate. Savor chocolate that contains 60% or more cocoa (sorry, milk and white chocolate lovers). Benefits include helping lower blood pressure and inflammation and improving blood clotting.
- Tomatoes. They're high in heart-healthy potassium, as well as lycopene, which may help get rid of "bad" cholesterol and keep blood vessels open. Canned, fresh, even sun-dried — all are good!
- Avocados. Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, they're also high in antioxidants and potassium. Guacamole, anyone?
- Nuts. Grab a handful of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts or macadamia nuts for their heart benefits including fiber and vitamin E. Walnuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Look for varieties that are low in salt.
- Broccoli, spinach, kale. These dark-green leafy vegetables pack a nutrient wallop — antioxidants, fibers and tons of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and alpha- and beta-carotene. Kale even has some omega-3 fatty acids. Use caution in eating more of these if you are taking warfarin.
- Sweet potatoes. And their other red, yellow and orange veggie buddies like carrots, red peppers and acorn squash. They contain loads of carotenoids, fiber and vitamins.
- Dark-colored beans. Think kidney or black beans, which are high in fiber, B vitamins, minerals and more. Let them star in soups, stews and chili.
- Red wine. A five-ounce glass (up to two for men and one for women per day) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels, thanks to a compound in the skins called resveratrol. But experts recommend that if you don't drink alcohol, this isn't a reason to start. You also can get resveratrol without drinking from non-alcohol sources like peanuts, grapes, blueberries and cranberries.
Ah, but there's more than just eating the right foods. Even the most heart-healthy foods and beverages should be enjoyed in moderation, so watch those portion sizes. Your heart will love you for it.
Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician in Community Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She completed her medical and doctoral degrees at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and her residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her interests include medical education, evidence-based medicine and care of LGBTQIA+ patients.