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A healthy diet can be good for your heart as well as your waistline! When you add these to foods instead of salt and fat, you’re making a heart-healthy choice. They add flavor without the bad stuff. Spices and other foods are delicious ways to eat heart-smart.

Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed also has omega-3’s, along with both soluble and insoluble fiber. It has one of the highest available sources of lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.

Ground flaxseed is easy to incorporate into your diet and can be mixed into just about anything you normally eat. Sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal, on top of low fat yogurt, mix into muffins, or combine into your smoothies.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a tasty breakfast food, and another good source of those omega-3 fatty acids. And it is a fiber superstar, offering 4 grams in every one-cup serving. It also has nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Oatmeal is a filling breakfast, and you can top it with fresh berries for an even more heart-healthy meal. Try fat free oatmeal cookies, oat bread, or mix whole rolled oats into a turkey burger meatloaf.

Green veggies

Popeye was right ― spinach packs a punch! So does kale, Swiss chard, collard/mustard greens and bok choy. Use these sandwiches and salads instead of lettuce. Broccoli and asparagus are filled with mighty nutrients such as vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber.

Red Wine

Red wine contains types of flavonoids called catechins, as well as the antioxidant resveratrol. Flavonoids can help maintain the health of your blood vessels, and may help prevent blood clots. Resveratrol has been shown in the lab to have heart-protecting benefits.

Have a glass of wine with dinner, or make a wine spritzer – mix wine with sparking water – to cut calories while still getting many of the benefits.

Keep in mind, though, that the American Heart Association does not recommend people start drinking simply to prevent heart disease. Drinking alcohol carries a risk of alcoholism, and can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide, and auto accidents. Enjoy red wine in moderation.

Salmon

Salmon is one of the best sources of two long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.13 EPA and DHA have long been known for reducing inflammation throughout the body, lowering blood pressure and improving the function of endothelial cells.

One 2012 analysis of studies found that as little as 0.45 to 4.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (about 3 ounces of salmon) can bring about significant improvement to arterial function.14

Not only is salmon delicious, but it also has a delicate, less fishy taste compared to other fatty fish, such as sardines. And it can be prepared in a variety of ways—steamed, sautéed, grilled, or smoked.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with vitamins, and concentrated tomato products are high in lycopene. Adding lycopene to your diet may help protect your heart, especially if your current diet isn’t giving you all the antioxidants you need.

Add a couple of thick slices of tomatoes to sandwiches and salads, or make a fresh tomato sauce to spoon over whole-wheat pasta.

Most nuts contain monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and other natural substances that may keep cholesterol levels and blood pressure in check. Walnuts are special because they’re also a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

Walnuts make a great snack with a piece of fruit. For breakfast, sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top of a bowl of warm oatmeal along with a little honey or blueberries.

Black or Kidney Beans

You know the schoolyard chant: “Beans, beans, good for your heart.” Turns out it’s true! Beans have lots of soluble fiber, B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and, you guessed it, omega-3 fatty acids.

Beans are so versatile. You can include them in soups, stews, or salads. Or make a meal out of them.

Try black beans on a whole-grain pita tostada with avocado, or combine them with corn kernels and onions to make stuffed bell peppers. Add canned kidney beans to a salad of cucumber, fresh corn, onions, and peppers, then toss with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Or bring black beans and kidney beans together for a delicious, nutritious vegetarian chili.

Tofu

Tofu is a great source of protein. It’s vegetarian. And it’s full of heart-healthy nutrients including niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Tofu is sometimes called “bean curd” because it is made from pressed soybean curd. It’s easy to prepare and can be part of almost any meal.

Thinly slice firm tofu, marinate for several hours and grill or add to your favorite veggie stir-fry. Make a tofu, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on whole grain bread, use instead of meats in pasta dishes, and add in slices or cubes to salads for added protein.

Carrots

Carrots are probably best known as a great source of carotenes. They have lots of the well-known nutrient beta-carotene, but carrots are also a good source of both alpha and gamma carotenes (carotenoids). Studies have associated higher levels of beta carotene with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Baby carrots make a great snack. Chopped up they add crunch to salads, and you can even sneak shredded carrots into many recipes including tomato sauce, muffins, and pasta.

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