Top 25 Heart-Healthy Foods. . .

Reduce your risk of heart disease by adding some of these colorful “super foods” to your diet.

When we talk about “super-foods” and protecting the heart and blood vessels there are some technical terms that need explaining.

Antioxidants = substances that protect your cells against the damage of free radicals.

Flavonoids = a type of antioxidant in plants.

Carotenoids = the red, orange and yellow pigments in plant foods.

Free Radicals = molecules that cause cell damage. Free radicals are sometimes created by our bodies as natural by-products. They can also come from smoke, air pollution, and exposure to UV light, radiation, etc.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids = essential fatty acids that the body needs but must be obtained from the diet. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Symptoms of deficiency include: fatigue, depression, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, poor circulation.

Phytosterols = a plant based compound that works to slow or stop the absorption of cholesterol made by the liver and cholesterol from food.

1. Tomatoes
Why tomatoes? Tomatoes are loaded with carotenoids like lutein, lycopene and beta and alpha-carotene. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and fiber. Try adding a slice of tomato to a sandwich, have some salsa with tortilla chips, a bowl of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.

2. Red bell peppers
Why red peppers? Carotenoids, B vitamins, fiber, potassium, folate. Try sliced red peppers with hummus, diced red peppers on a salad or in a wrap.

3. Carrots
Why carrots? Carotenoids and fiber. Try carrots dipped in light ranch dressing, add shredded carrots to your tomato sauce, toss some diced carrots into a stir-fry.

4. Papaya
Why papaya? Antioxidants (vitamins C and E), carotenoids, calcium, potassium, magnesium. Papaya tastes great in a smoothie or diced up with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of granola.

5. Sweet Potato
Why sweet potatoes? That beautiful bright color can mean only one thing…carotenoids! Beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, and also fiber. Baked stuffed sweet potatoes are scrumptious! Baked sweet potato fries are also a much healthier alternative to traditional fries.

6. Salmon
Why salmon? Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon tastes great grilled with some lemon and garlic powder, on a salad, or as kabobs with fresh veggies.

7. Cantaloupe
Why cantaloupe? B-vitamins, vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber, carotenoids. Cantaloupe is great diced up and eaten plain, mixed into a smoothie, or served with cottage cheese or yogurt.

8. Acorn Squash
Why acorn squash? Calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, folate, carotenoids. Acorn squash tastes great on pizza or baked and stuffed with cranberries and wild rice.

9. Asparagus
Why asparagus? B-vitamins, fiber, folate, carotenoids. Asparagus is delicious grilled, steamed, or in a pasta salad.

10. Broccoli
Why broccoli? Antioxidants, carotenoids, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber. Broccoli is tasty raw with hummus, in a soup, stir-fry, or in a veggie lasagna!

11. Oranges
Why oranges? Oranges are loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, potassium, folate, and fiber. Oranges make simple, healthy snacks. They also taste great in salads!

12. Spinach
Why spinach? Spinach rich in B-vitamins, carotenoids, antioxidants, fiber, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Try spinach on a pizza or in a veggie soup.

13. Blueberries
Why blueberries? flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols, folate, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber. Blueberries are great just plain, in muffins, salads, or parfaits.

14. Almonds
Why almonds? vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, phytosterols. Mmm…almond butter and sliced apples!

15. Brown Rice
Why brown rice? B-vitamins, fiber, magnesium. Try brown rice in a burrito, in a stuffed pepper, or in a soup.

16. Flaxseed
Why flaxseed? Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber. Try some ground flaxseed on yogurt parfaits, in muffins, pancakes, or in oatmeal.

17. Oats
Why oats? Magnesium, potassium, folate, calcium, soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids. Add some almond butter to a bowl of warm oatmeal with raisins and honey.

18. Tofu
Why tofu? Potassium, magnesium, fiber, B-vitamins. There are so many ways to use tofu! Puddings, smoothies, dips, grilled, in salads, stir-frys! Try my spinach tofu dip.

19. Walnuts
Why walnuts? vitamin E, magnesium, folate, fiber, heart healthy fats, phytosterols. Add walnuts to a salad, yogurt, muffins, pancakes, pasta dish.

20. Soy milk
Why soy milk? Flavonoids, B-vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium. Try some soy milk just plain, with a bowl of cereal, or in a smoothie.

21. Tuna
Why tuna? omega-3 fatty acids, folate and niacin.

22. Kidney beans
Why kidney beans? Soluble fiber, calcium, potassium, folate, magnesium. Kidney beans are super super high in fiber and taste great in soups or mixed with rice and veggies.

23. Dark chocolate
Why dark chocolate? Flavonoids. May help to lower blood pressure. Try adding a tablespoon of dark chocolate to your oatmeal!

24. Tea
Why tea? Flavonoids. Try a cup of hot or iced green tea.

25. Red wine
Why red wine? Flavonoids. A glass of red wine may help to improve your HDL (good) cholesterol.

Content adapted from an original article by WebMD. The 25 foods listed above were selected by a team of nutrition experts at The Cleveland Clinic and the American Dietetic Association as the most heart healthy foods. The original article was published on WebMD and can be found here. All photographs copyright

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