Simple food choices go a long way when it comes to your heart’s health. Focusing on fresh foods full of heart-healthy fats and antioxidants can decrease your risk of developing heart disease and cut your chances of a heart attack. These 10 foods will help keep your ticker in top shape.
Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. This fiber-rich superfood can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear.
Opt for coarse or steel-cut oats over instant varieties — the coarse and steel-cut contain more fiber — and top your bowl off with a banana for another four grams of fiber.
Super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can effectively reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Aim for two servings per week, which may reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by up to one-third.
“Salmon contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, which is a very powerful antioxidant,” says cardiologist Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, the author of “Lower Your Blood Pressure In Eight Weeks.” But be sure to choose wild salmon over farm-raised fish, which can be packed with insecticides, pesticides, and heavy metals.
Not a fan of salmon? Other oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines will give your heart the same boost.
Add a bit of avocado to a sandwich or spinach salad to increase the amount of heart-healthy fats in your diet. Packed with monounsaturated fat, avocados can help lower LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol in your body. Health.com: What puts you at risk for high cholesterol?
“Avocados are awesome,” says Dr. Sinatra. “They allow for the absorption of other carotenoids — especially beta-carotene and lycopene — which are essential for heart health.”
Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil lowers bad LDL cholesterol and reduces your risk of developing heart disease.
Results from the Seven Countries Study, which looked at cardiovascular disease incidences across the globe, showed that while men in Crete had a predisposition for high cholesterol levels, relatively few died of heart disease because their diet focused on heart-healthy fats found in olive oil. Look for extra-virgin or virgin varieties — they’re the least processed — and use them instead of butter when cooking. Health.com: Good fats vs. bad fats — what to eat
Almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are all full of omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Almonds are rich in omega-3s, plus nuts increase fiber in the diet, says Dr. Sinatra. “And like olive oil, they are a great source of healthy fat.”
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries — whatever berry you like best — are full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
“Blackberries and blueberries are especially great,” says Sinatra. “But all berries are great for your vascular health.” Health.com: How I survived a heart attack at 43
Fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, and black and kidney beans. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and soluble fiber.
Spinach can help keep your ticker in top shape thanks to its stores of lutein, folate, potassium, and fiber.
But upping your servings of any veggies is sure to give your heart a boost. The Physicians’ Health Study examined more than 15,000 men without heart disease for a period of 12 years. Those who ate at least 2½ servings of vegetables each day cut their risk of heart disease by about 25 percent, compared with those who didn’t eat the veggies. Each additional serving reduced risk by another 17 percent.
Full of fiber and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little sprinkling of flaxseed can go a long way for your heart. Top a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with a smidgen of ground flaxseed for the ultimate heart-healthy breakfast.
Soy may lower cholesterol, and since it is low in saturated fat, it’s still a great source of lean protein in a heart-healthy diet.
Look for natural sources of soy, like edamame, tempeh, or organic silken tofu. And soy milk is a great addition to a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. But watch the amount of salt in your soy: Some processed varieties like soy dogs can contain added sodium, which boosts blood pressure.
Copyright Health Magazine
Childhood obesity, underage drinking, smoking and failure to exercise are all concerns for parents these days. If you want your kids to adopt a healthier, wiser lifestyle, you are going to have to show them the light. Children often learn best by example. Lead and they will likely follow.
How can you set the example and get them off on the right foot if your habits aren’t that great? Consider taking these steps to put yourself and your family on the road to better health and fitness:
- Work closely with a personal trainer – Exercise is one of the best ways to get yourself and your family in shape. Coming up with a program that will suit the needs of family members of varying ages isn’t easy though. A trainer can help you pick a plan that works for you while encouraging family members to get involved. You may even want individualized plans that also include family exercise time that’s fun. Taking bike rides together, walks or even jogs through the park might do the trick.
- Make eating right cool – Children are not born with a hatred for fruits, vegetables and other healthy food choices. They learn to scorn these things when processed, sugary and salty snacks and treats are introduced into their diets. Reserve the unhealthy snacks and fast-foods for occasional treats and make the healthy options the staples in your house. Also make sure your family sees you eating healthy foods. If you munch on grapes, yogurt or whole grain crackers in between meals, your children will be more likely to do the same. At mealtime, present healthy options, but do take the steps to make them tasty and enjoyable. Grilled or broiled lean meats, fresh vegetables, whole grain side dishes and other similar choices are healthy and they can offer a lot of flavor.
- Make exercise fun – When it’s your time to exercise, don’t let your kids hear you complain. If you really can’t handle the idea of a trip to the gym on a particular day, load up the kids in the car and go to a park for a hike. Or, just head to the backyard for a game of Frisbee or something fun. You’ll know it’s exercise, but your kids won’t.
- Work on breaking bad habits – If you smoke or drink too much, take steps to kick these habits. When children see their parents smoking or drinking, they associate these behaviors with being grown up. They also believe they are acceptable. Keeping drinking down to low or moderate levels or giving up tobacco can send your children the message you want them to learn.
If you want your family to become healthier and more fitness conscious, you may have to take the first steps. When your children and even your spouse see you having fun, they are likely to follow your example. Working with your trainer or the pros at your fitness center can help you get off on the right foot to effect a change for yourself and your family.