By Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, LD - DietsInReview.com
In case you hadn't heard, February is American Heart Month, an initiative to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke, the number one killer in the U.S.
Eating a healthy diet can be a key method of preventing heart disease. We're highlighting five heart-healthy foods that can literally save your health. We recognize that these are not the only five foods that protect your heart, but they stand out as star performers and great additions to any diet.
1. Garlic: This herb is ideal for heart health. Numerous studies have shown the potential benefits of regular garlic consumption on blood pressure, platelet aggregation, serum triglyceride level, and cholesterol levels - all of which keep your heart performing. Garlic also makes a great seasoning for food so you can greatly reduce salt.
2. Salmon: Make the swap from a saturated fat burger to a salmon fillet. While some saturated fat is fine, a little goes a long way. The average cheeseburger has more than half a day worth of the artery clogging fat, which will increase your risk for a heart attack. Conversely, salmon lowers that risk thanks to heart healthy fats. Omega-3s can prevent erratic heart rhythms, reduce likelihood of blood clots inside arteries, improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol, and prevent cholesterol from becoming damaged, at which point it clogs arteries.
3. Berries and Cherries: Props must be given to nature's candy. These sweet treats are high in polyphenols, which prevent cell damage that creates unhealthy blood vessels and heart. During the winter, opt for frozen berries. Try thawing a bag of frozen strawberries in the refrigerator. Then, add unsweetened, steel-cut oatmeal with the berries their juice and your heart will say thanks with each beat.
4. Quinoa: Often mistaken as a grain, this tiny sprouted seed is an excellent source of magnesium, the mineral that relaxes blood vessels. Low dietary levels of magnesium lead to some scary health issues like increased rates of hypertension, ischemic heart disease and heart arrhythmias. Quinoa cooks quickly and makes great leftovers. Toss with grilled veggies and roasted chicken for a delicious one-pot dinner, or try this Red Curry Quinoa recipe.
5. Hot Cocoa: You read right! Hot cocoa is brimming with antioxidants - two-times more than red wine and three times more than green tea. The cool February temperatures are no match for a mug of hot cocoa. My tip: since hot chocolate mixes are full of sugar, use 100% cocoa and combine with a teaspoon of sugar. Plus you'll sweeten with the natural sugars in the milk.
Also read the Top 5 Foods to Lower Cholesterol to manage your heart-healthy diet at DietsInReview.com.