February is National Heart Health Month, making it the perfect time to highlight some foods that promote heart health, as well as list those that do more harm than good.
While heart disease can be hereditary, its prevention begins with a healthy lifestyle. For starters, this means no smoking, monitoring your blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and incorporating exercise and a healthy, well-balanced diet into your everyday routine.
Diet alone can play a huge role in heart disease prevention. In general, heart healthy foods are ones that are natural, whole foods that don’t come in a box and instead come straight from nature. Fresh fruits and vegetables are certainly a cornerstone of heart-healthy foods for their high nutrient and vitamin content and their amazing ability to cleanse free radicals from the blood stream.
Foods containing antioxidants are essential for heart health because they protect the body from damage caused by oxidation – a process brought on by free radicals formed from things like cigarette smoke, radiation and pollution in the evironment.
Foods containing antioxidants includes fruits like berries, vegetables like kale, and even indulgent items like dark chocolate and red wine. Other heart-healthy foods contain unsaturated fats like those found in walnuts and almonds, and omega-3 fatty acids like those found in flaxseed and salmon. Foods to avoid include those that are fried, high in salt, heavily processed, or high in saturated fat.
With that in mind, here are five delicious and healthy recipes that incorporate whole foods and can help pave the way to a healthier heart today.
Healthier Flaxseed Banana Bread
Super Fruit and Nut Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette via Ambitious Kitchen
Parmesan Pepper Sweet Potato Fries
Braised Collard Green with Red Wine
In addition to these recipes, keep in mind beverages like red wine and tea can do a lot to protect your heart because of their high antioxidant content. Green tea is very high in antioxidants and is recommended for daily consumption, as is red wine. The key is keeping alcohol in moderation. The Heart Foundation reports that heavy drinking episodes can increase risk of heart disease even in people who don’t make a habit of drinking heavily. For women, keep it to two drinks a day and no more than 10 a week. For men, keep it to three drinks a day and no more than 15 a week.
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photo via Ambitious Kitchen