Top 10 Foods for Heart Health (Hint: Think Red!) February 8, 2017

by Rebecca Lewis MS RDN Lifestyle

What better time to talk about your heart than February? Now we know what you’re thinking: Valentine’s Day! But what most people don’t realize is that February is also American Heart Month. And get this: most foods that support heart health are red. Coincidence? We don’t think so. Continue reading to learn more…  

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The average person’s heart will beat two billion (yes, BILLION) times in their lifetime. And yet, the number one cause of death in the US is heart disease. In fact, someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds. Fortunately, there are many ways to increase heart health, including incorporating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

We put together a list of our top ten favorites foods that help keep your ticker beating longer. They all come packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and fiber. Plus, they’re all red (or red-ish)!

1. Red Onion

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Lower blood cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind)
  • Discourage clot formation and encourage them to dissolve

TIP: Get the most nutritional bang for your buck by eating raw onions. Try pickling them or adding them to a vinaigrette to decrease their bitterness.

RECIPE: Crispy Falafel Salad with Pickled Red Onion, Cucumber, and Greek Yogurt Dressing

2. Red Bell Peppers

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Contain several phytochemicals like beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), which provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Good source of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol

Recipe: Southwestern Stuffed Peppers with Beef, Quinoa, and Monterey Jack Cheese

3. Beets

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Packed with antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and nitrates to help widen blood vessels and increase blood flow
  • Help prevent “bad” cholesterol from turning into plaque that clogs our arteries

Recipe: Beet and Goat Cheese Tart

4. Chile Peppers

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Thanks to a special component called capsaicin, chile peppers help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and the formation of blood clots

TIP:  If you can stand the spice, these little beauties add a boost of flavor to many dishes so you can leave the salt shaker off the table!  Watch this video on how to infuse them in olive oil for a delicious twist.

RECIPE: Nick’s Texas Chili Recipe

5. Tomatoes

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Full of antioxidants like vitamin A and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene – all of which are used to repair damage to the inside of our bodies
  • Have been shown to lower cholesterol

BONUS:  Tomatoes give your skin a rosy glow and help keep it looking healthy

TIP: Cooking tomatoes makes their antioxidants more available compared to when eaten raw

RECIPE: Mozzarella-Crusted Chicken with Blistered Tomatoes and Potato Wedges 

6. Berries

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Come equipped with the highest antioxidant content of any fruit
  • Help stop inflammation to reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Boast one of the best fiber-per-calorie bargains, which helps lower our cholesterol while also keeping us feeling full

BONUS:  Berries are the ultimate anti-aging superfood. They also help our brain stay young and boost our memory by protecting the brain’s memory-carrying cells.

RECIPE: Strawberry Chia Pudding

7. Pomegranates

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • High in polyphenols and antioxidants (three times as many as green tea!)
  • Prevent the oxidization of LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind)
  • Reduce plaque in arteries, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow and circulation (take THAT heart disease)

READ MORE: What’s in Season: Winter Edition

RECIPE: Avocado Pomegranate Smoothie

8. Salmon

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Great source of lean protein that is significantly lower in saturated fats compared to red meat (which is important since saturated fats are associated with heart disease)
  • One of very few food sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent inflammation

BONUS:  Salmon is also an excellent source of vitamin D and B12 – both of which boost our mood and brain power

RECIPE: Walnut-Crusted Salmon with Crispy Broccoli and Pilaf-Style Couscous

9. Red Quinoa

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Packed with fiber (it is a whole grain, after all)
  • Substantially lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels. The result? Lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

BONUS:  Research shows that people who eat more whole grain foods have a lower body mass index and are less likely to gain weight over time.

READ MORE: Guide to Gluten-Free Grains

RECIPE: Sweet Potato & Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Orange, and Arugula

10. Red Lentils

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Heart-Healthy Benefits:

  • Low in fat but high in antioxidants
  • Fabulous source of plant-based protein and fiber – two nutrients that help you stay full and satisfied (a bonus when watching your weight)
  • Good source of magnesium and potassium – nutrients that work together to lower blood pressure, maintain healthy cholesterol, and keep your heart and blood vessels healthy

RECIPE: Afghan Red Lentil Soup with Cumin, Mint, and Lemon

Speaking of hearts and love and all that good stuff, do you have plans for Valentine’s Day? Discover why making a #ReservationIN may be the best bet. 

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