5 Foods that Boost Heart Health

Sarah-Jane Bedwell, SELF magazine

February is National Heart Health Month, y'all, which means it's time for us to focus on taking care of our tickers. As a nutritionist, of course I recommend boosting your own heart's health through your diet. Yet "heart-healthy foods" are traditionally thought of as boring or bland, like fiber-filled cereal or plain baked chicken. Well guess what?! I'm here to bust that myth--try one of these five decadent foods that'll help your ticker and taste pretty good, too.

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Chocolate...in Many Forms: Everyone's favorite dessert contains compounds called flavonoids, whose antioxidant activity help to protect the heart. Keep in mind, though, the more cacao your chocolate contains the better the benefits are; aim for 70% cocoa or more. Bored of the bar? Add even more heart-health benefits to your next treat by mixing pure cocoa powder with low-fat milk, which contains potassium to promote a healthy blood pressure. Then heat the mixture over low heat and stir in a drizzle of agave nectar at the end for sweetness for the most delicious hot chocolate you've ever taste. Or if chocolate with fruit is more your thing, melt three finger's worth of a dark chocolate bar in the microwave and use as a dip for your favorite berries, which provide even more antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber, too.

Red Wine...or Grape Juice
: Red wine contains polyphenols, which are well-known heart healthy compounds. A glass a day is quite healthy, but any more than that may have the reverse effect on your ticker. And if you don't drink or want to spend a little less moolah per ounce, never fear. As a Welch's health advisory member, I can confidently tell you that many of the polyphenols found in the "sauce" are also found in 100% Concord grape juice.

Peanut Butter (as Part of a Meatless meal):
Once given a bad rap for its high-fat content, this irresistibly creamy stuff is actually high in heart-healthy fats. Peanut butter is high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and low in the less-than-the-best saturated fats. Enjoy a peanut butter and banana sammy or stir a spoonful into your pasta for a
meatless meal since going meatless at least on per week is an easy heart-healthy habit!

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Popcorn Drizzled with Olive Oil and Garlic: While the butter-laden, salty popcorn you smell at the movies is definitely not a heart-healthy food, you can make your own version that is! Start by popping your own popcorn, a superfood that's high in cholesterol-lowering fiber. Add two tablespoons of plain kernels to a brown paper bag, fold over the top of the bag and pop as you normally would. Then drizzle with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, which like peanut butter, contains heart-healthy fats, and sprinkle with a pinch of garlic powder to add low-sodium, heart-healthy flavor.

Lobster: Thinking about having one of these tasty tails with your honey for V-day this year? Go ahead! While shellfish used to be banned from the heart-healthy foods list due to its cholesterol content, we now know that while you still don't want to OD on foods high in cholesterol, it is really the saturated fat in foods that affects blood cholesterol the most. Good news is that lobster is relatively low in fat and calories, making it a nice heart healthy protein-as long as you take it easy on the drawn butter.

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