February is American Heart Month, and there are certain foods the heart likes better than others. To keep your heart healthy doesn't require much, and just some simple lifestyle choices can help.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. So, swap an apple for French Fries, or choose salmon instead of beef, to start on the path to great heart health.
Keep a healthy heart in February and beyond by eating some of the following heart helpers:
Blueberries pack a punch in knocking out health problems. Antioxidants called anthocyanins may dilute blood vessels and decrease blood pressure. One recent study concluded that just one cup of blueberries a day can help reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness. At 80 calories a cup, blueberries are a great topping or snack and they're available year round.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin A. In addition, tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, considered helpful in lowering cholesterol, keeping blood vessels open, and lowering heart disease risk. It's important to cook tomatoes to bring out the lycopene.
While some argue the importance of grains in the human diet, Quinoa and brown rice may serve the heart well. People who eat those particular foods tend to have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don't. There is fiber in Quinoa and brown rice, and they contain phytosterols that have been shown to protect against heart disease.
Fish with fat are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Fox News reported that consuming two or more servings of fish per week is associated with a 30 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. While salmon, tuna, and trout are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, sardines may trump their fishy counterparts.
Nuts contain minerals, heart-healthy fats and fiber. A report by the Mayo Clinic suggests that people who eat nuts as part of a their diet can lower the bad cholesterol level in their blood. Other research shows people who eat nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews two to four times a week have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don't eat them. Since nuts are inexpensive and easy to have on hand, it's easy to keep a handful -- or two -- in your pocket.
Beans are a great source of fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Research shows that a half cup of beans every day could help fight bad cholesterol, which the American Heart Association says is a major enemy to heart health. Beans come in many shapes, sizes and varieties, including kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, navy beans and black beans. They're great in a salad, in a burrito or stir fry.