This article is designed to give tips to readers about how they can improve or augment actions in their life to have a healthy lifestyle; it is not meant to be all inclusive but will include major components that are considered to be parts of a lifestyle that lead to good health. In addition to the tips about what people should do for healthy living, the article will mention some of the tips about avoiding actions (the don’ts) that lead to unhealthy living.
“Healthy living” to most people means both physical and mental health are in balance or functioning well together in a person. In many instances, physical and mental health are closely linked, so that a change (good or bad) in one directly affects the other. Consequently, some of the tips will include suggestions for emotional and mental “healthy living.”
- Set a date for quitting. If possible, plan to have a friend quit smoking with you. It’s best to pick a day within the next month. A date too far off in the future will give you a chance to procrastinate and postpone, while a date too soon may not allow you to make a plan for medications or support systems.
- Notice when and why you smoke. Try to find the things in your daily life that you often do while smoking (such as drinking your morning cup of coffee or driving a car).
- Change your smoking routines: Keep your cigarettes in a different place. Smoke with your other hand. Don’t do anything else when you are smoking. Think about how you feel when you smoke.
Healthy eating (diet and nutrition)
All humans have to eat food for growth and maintenance of a healthy body, but we humans have different nutrition requirements as infants, children (kids), teenagers, young adults, adults, and seniors. For example, infants may require feeding every 4 hours until they gradually age and begin to take in more solid foods. Eventually they develop into the more normal pattern of eating three times per day as young kids. However, as most parents know, kids, teenagers, and young adults often snack between meals. Snacking is often not limited to these age groups because adults and seniors often do the same.
- Eat three healthy meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner); it is important to remember that dinner does not have to be the largest meal.
- The bulk of food consumption should consist of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products.
- Incorporate lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts (with emphasis on beans and nuts) into a healthy diet.
- Choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars; look at the labels because the first listed items on the labels comprise the highest concentrations of ingredients.
- Control portion sizes; eat the smallest portion that can satisfy hunger and then stop eating.
- Healthy snacks are OK in moderation and should consist of items like fruit, whole grains, or nuts to satisfy hunger and not cause excessive weight gain.
- Avoid sodas and sugar-enhanced drinks because of the excessive calories in the sodas and sugar drinks; diet drinks may not be a good choice as they make some people hungrier and increase food consumption.
- Avoid eating a large meal before sleeping to decrease gastroesophageal reflux and weight gain.
- If a person is angry or depressed, eating will not solve these situations and may make the underlying problems worse.
- Avoid rewarding children with sugary snacks; such a pattern may become a lifelong habit for people.
- Avoid heavy meals in the summer months, especially during hot days.
- A vegetarian lifestyle has been promoted for a healthy lifestyle and weight loss; vegetarians should check with their physicians to be sure they are getting enough vitamins, minerals, and iron in their diet.
- Cooking foods (above 165 F) destroys most harmful bacteria and other pathogens; if you choose to eat uncooked foods like fruits or vegetables, they should be thoroughly washed with running treated (safe to drink) tap water right before eating.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meats of any type.
Tips for special situations:
- People with diabetes should use the above tips and monitor their glucose levels as directed; try to keep the daily blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
- People with unusual work schedules (night shifts, college students, military) should try to adhere to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner routine with minimal snacking.
- People who prepare food should avoid using grease or frying foods in grease.
- People trying to lose weight (body fat) should avoid all fatty and sugary foods and eat mainly vegetables, fruits, and nuts and markedly reduce his/her intake of meat and dairy products.
- Seek medical advice early if you cannot control your weight, food intake, or if you have diabetes and cannot control your blood glucose levels.
Physical activity and exercise
Physical activity and exercise is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle; people are made to use their bodies, and disuse leads to unhealthy living. Unhealthy living may manifest itself in obesity, weakness, lack of endurance, and overall poor health that may foster disease development.
- Regular exercise can prevent and reverse age-related decreases in muscle mass and strength, improve balance, flexibility, and endurance, and decrease the risk of falls in the elderly. Regular exercise can help prevent coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Regular, weight-bearing exercise can also help prevent osteoporosis by building bone strength.
- Regular fitness can help chronic arthritis sufferers improve their capacity to perform daily activities such as driving, climbing stairs, and opening jars.
- Regular exercise can help increase self-esteem and self-confidence, decrease stress and anxiety, enhance mood, and improve general mental health.
- Regular exercise can help control body weight and in some people cause loss of fat.
- Thirty minutes of modest exercise (walking is OK) at least 3 to 5 days a week is recommended, but the greatest health benefits come from exercising most days of the week.
- Exercise can be broken up into smaller 10-minute sessions.
- Start slowly and progress gradually to avoid injury or excessive soreness or fatigue. Over time, build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day.
- People are never too old to start exercising. Even frail, elderly individuals (70-90 years of age) can improve their strength and balance with exercise.
- Almost any type of exercise (resistance, water aerobics, walking, swimming, weights, yoga, and many others) is helpful for everybody.
- Children need exercise; play outside of the home is a good beginning.
- Sports for children may provide excellent opportunities for exercise, but care must be taken not to overdo certain exercises (for example, throwing too many pitches in baseball may harm a joint like the elbow or shoulder).
- Exertion during strenuous exercise may make a person tired and sore, but if pain occurs, stop the exercise until the pain source is discovered; the person may need to seek medical help and advice about continuation of such exercise.
Most individuals can begin moderate exercise, such as walking, without a medical examination. The following people, however, should consult a doctor before beginning more vigorous exercise:
- Men over age 40 or women over age 50
- Individuals with heart or lung disease, asthma, arthritis, or osteoporosis
- Individuals who experience chest pressure or pain with exertion, or who develop fatigue or shortness of breath easily
- Individuals with conditions that increase their risks of developing coronary heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, or having family members who had early onset heart attacks and coronary heart disease
- Individuals who are morbidly obese
Consequences of physical inactivity and lack of exercise:
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise are associated with heart disease and some cancers.
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise are associated with type II diabetes mellitus (also known as maturity or adult-onset, non-insulin-dependent diabetes).
- Physical inactivity and lack of exercise contribute to weight gain.
Healthy living involves more than physical health, it also includes emotional or mental health. The following are some ways people can support their mental health and well-being.
- Get enough sleep daily; the CDC recommends the following by age group (naps inclusive); 12-18 hours from birth to 2 months, 14-15 hours from 3-11 months of age, 12-18 hours for 1-3 years of age, 11-13 hours for 3-5 years of age, 10-11 hours for 5-10 years of age, 8.5-9.5 hours for 10-17 years of age and those 18 and above need 7-9 hours of sleep. Elderly people need about 7-9 hours but do not sleep as deeply and may awaken at night or wake early, so naps (like kids need) allow them to accumulate the total of 7-9 hours of sleep.
- Take a walk and reflect on what you see and hear at least several times per week.
- Try something new and often (eat a new food, try a different route to work, go to a new museum display).
- Do some mind exercises (read, do a puzzle occasionally during the week).
- Try to focus on a process intensely and complete a segment of it over 1 to several hours, then take a break and do something relaxing (walk, exercise, short nap).
- Plan to spend some time talking with other people about different subjects.
- Try to make some leisure time to do some things that interest you every week (hobby, sport).
- Learn ways to say “no” when something occurs that you do not want to do or be involved with.
- Have fun (go on a trip with someone you love, go shopping, go fishing; do not let vacation time slip away).
- Let yourself be pleased with your achievements, both big and small (develop contentment).
- Have a network of friends; those with strong social support systems lead healthier lives.
- Seek help and advice early if you feel depressed, have suicidal thoughts, or consider harming yourself or others.
- People taking medicine for mental health problems should not stop taking these medications, no matter how “well” they feel, until they have discussed their situation with their prescribing doctor(s).
Avoidance behavior is another key to wellness. Below are described some of the major items to avoid if a person is seeking a healthy lifestyle.
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Avoid tobacco use
Tobacco use is the most important preventable illness and cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Tobacco use was estimated to be the cause of 443,000 deaths in 2010 in the U.S.
- Stop smoking tobacco; start to stop today (it takes about 15 years of nonsmoking behavior to achieve a “normal” risk level for heart disease for those that smoke).
- Stop using chewing tobacco to avoid oral cancers.
Adverse consequences of tobacco use:
- Tobacco use causes or contributes to a large number of cancers in the U.S. In men, 90% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to smoking; 80% in women. Tobacco use causes cancers of the lung, mouth, lip, tongue, esophagus, kidney, and bladder. It also further increases the risk of bladder cancer in subjects occupationally exposed to certain organic chemicals found in the textile, leather, rubber, dye, paint, and other organic chemical industries, and further increases the risk of lung cancer among subjects exposed to asbestos.
- Tobacco use causes atherosclerotic arterial disease (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and lack of blood flow to the lower extremities. Tobacco use causes an estimated 20%-30% of coronary heart disease in the U.S. It also further increases the risk of heart attacks among subjects with elevated cholesterol, uncontrolled hypertension, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
- Tobacco use causes an estimated 20% of chronic lung diseases in the U.S., such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and causes pneumonia in those with chronic lung disease. The CDC, in 2011, estimated that 90% of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) were due to smoking.
- Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to deliver babies with low birth weight.
- Secondhand smoke can cause middle-ear infections (otitis media), coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, and pneumonia in babies, and aggravate asthma in children. Secondhand smoke (sometimes referred to as passive smoking) can also cause lung cancer.
Comments and recommendations (tips):
- Quitting smoking is difficult to accomplish; tobacco contains nicotine, which is addictive. Some smokers can quit “cold turkey,” but for most, quitting smoking requires a serious life-long commitment and an average of six quitting attempts before success.
- Quitting smoking efforts may include behavior modification, counseling, use of nicotine chewing gum (Nicorette Gum), nicotine skin patches (Transderm Nicotine), or oral medications such as bupropion (Zyban).
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Adverse consequences of excessive alcohol consumption:
- Chronic, excess alcohol consumption is the major cause of liver cirrhosis in the U.S.
- Liver cirrhosis can cause internal hemorrhage, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, easy bleeding and bruising, muscle wasting, mental confusion, infections, and in advanced cases, coma, and kidney failure.
- Liver cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer.
- Alcohol accounts for 40%-50% of deaths from automobile accidents in the U.S.
- Alcohol use is a significant cause of injury and death from home accidents, drowning, and burns.
Comments and recommendations (tips):
There are many treatments for alcoholism. But the crucial first step to recovery is for the individual to admit there is a problem and make a commitment to address the alcoholism issue. The 12-step-style self-help programs, pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, can be one effective treatment. Psychologists and related professionals have developed programs to help individuals better handle emotional stresses and avoid behaviors that can lead to excess drinking. Support and understanding from family members are often critical for sustained recovery. Medication can be useful for the prevention of relapses and for withdrawal symptoms following acute or prolonged intoxication.
Avoid high-risk sexual behaviors
High-risk sexual behavior can lead to the acquisition of sexually transmitted illnesses such as gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, or HIV infection. High-risk sexual behavior is also known to spread human papillomavirus infection, which can lead to cervical cancer in women and other anogenital cancers in both men and women. High-risk sexual behaviors include the following:
- Multiple sex partners
- Sex partners with a history of the following:
Adverse consequences of high-risk sexual behavior:
- Transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes)
- Transmission of hepatitis B (50% of hepatitis B infections are due to sexual transmission) and, in rare instances, hepatitis C
- Transmission of human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause genital warts and anogenital carcinomas, most commonly cancer of the uterine cervix
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Avoid unprotected sex (sex without barriers such as a condom) outside an established, committed, monogamous relationship.
- If you plan to have sex and are unsure of your partner’s health status, use a condom.
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Avoid other high-risk behaviors
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Driving while sleep-deprived
- Reckless driving and speeding, “road rage”
- Driving while using cell phones, texting, or performing other tasks
- Motorcycle (and bicycle) riding without helmets
- Possession of firearms and guns without proper training and storage
- Smoking in bed
Adverse consequences of high-risk behaviors:
- Motor vehicle accidents account for 40%-50% of accidental deaths.
- Motorcycle accidents are a major cause of serious head injuries.
- Firearms and guns account for a significant proportion of deaths among adolescents due to male suicide and homicide.
- Smoking in bed can lead to burn injury and death.
- When driving, use seat restraints on all passengers, both front and rear seats.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Do not drive if sleep deprived.
- Avoid unnecessary distractions and focus on the road and traffic while driving (avoid texting, talking on cell phones, eating, applying makeup, or other distractions).
- Use helmets while riding bicycles and motorcycles. Helmet use reduces deaths from motorcycle accidents by 30% and serious head injuries by 75%.
- Obtain proper training in the use and storage of guns and ammunition.
- Use smoke detectors; avoid smoking in bed.
Adverse consequences of excess sun exposure:
- Avoid sunburns and sun exposure by using adequate skin protection; use brimmed hats, protective clothing, and sunscreen.
Sunscreens have undergone changes, and the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) published new requirements that sunscreens needed to meet starting in 2012. Currently, the FDA suggests an effective sunscreen is rated as SPF 30 or higher and has both UVA and UVB protection (protection against ultraviolet waves of types A and B). In most instances, sunscreen needs to be applied every 2 hours and each time after a person has gone swimming.
Additional tips for healthy living
Although there are many other risky behaviors that may impede an otherwise healthy lifestyle (for example, working with toxic or radioactive materials, drug addiction, travel to areas with unusual endemic diseases), these are too numerous to cover in this general article. However, the reader is advised to visit such topic sites on MedicineNet.com, eMedicineHealth.com or WebMD.com because most of the specific articles will provide tips to avoid health-related problems.
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Heart Healthy Diet: 25 Foods You Should Eat
Reviewed on 9/19/2019
The Best Foods for Your Heart
Your heart is a finely tuned machine. To keep it running in top form you need to give it heart healthy fuel. And that means you should choose a healthy diet. Some foods offer great heart benefits, but how do you choose?
More than 1 in 10 Americans has been diagnosed with heart disease. Picking the right healthy foods can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Here you will find 25 of the best foods to protect your heart and blood vessels. Learn the top nutrients that keep your heart beating at its best, along with menu suggestions to make these foods part of your daily meals.
Salmon is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias), lower triglyceride levels, slow the growth of plaque in your arteries, and slightly lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of omega-3 rich foods like salmon each week. A serving size is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish.
Salmon is a versatile food. Grill it with a rub or marinade, chop some and add it to a pasta dish with fat free marinara sauce, or add it to your salads for a protein punch.
Farmed Vs. Wild Salmon
Does the way your salmon was raised influence its omega-3 contents? Many grocery stores now carry both farm-raised and wild-caught salmon. It turns out that farm-raised salmon tends to have more omega-3 fat, but also more total fat. Even though farmed salmon has more saturated fat, it is still about half the amount found in the same portion of flank steak.
Ground flaxseed also has omega-3’s, along with both soluble and insoluble fiber. It has one of the highest available sources of lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.
Ground flaxseed is easy to incorporate into your diet and can be mixed into just about anything you normally eat. Sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal, on top of low fat yogurt, mix into muffins, or combine into your smoothies.
What About Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil is loaded with omega-3s, but they are the less effective type known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA needs special enzymes to be converted to omega-3, and these enzymes are found in your body in limited supply. This means that at most, you can expect about 15% of your flaxseed oil omega-3s to be converted into its most useful forms. So while you certainly do get some benefit, it may be less than your supplement label suggests.
Oatmeal is a tasty breakfast food, and another good source of those omega-3 fatty acids. And it is a fiber superstar, offering 4 grams in every one-cup serving. It also has nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Oatmeal is a filling breakfast, and you can top it with fresh berries for an even more heart-healthy meal. Try fat free oatmeal cookies, oat bread, or mix whole rolled oats into a turkey burger meatloaf.
Black or Kidney Beans
You know the schoolyard chant: “Beans, beans, good for your heart.” Turns out it’s true! Beans have lots of soluble fiber, B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and, you guessed it, omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans are so versatile. You can include them in soups, stews, or salads. Or make a meal out of them.
Try black beans on a whole-grain pita tostada with avocado, or combine them with corn kernels and onions to make stuffed bell peppers. Add canned kidney beans to a salad of cucumber, fresh corn, onions, and peppers, then toss with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Or bring black beans and kidney beans together for a delicious, nutritious vegetarian chili.
Nuts have been shown to lower blood cholesterol. And for a heart-healthy nut, almonds make a great choice. They contain plant omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and heart-favorable monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Almonds are so easy to eat – you can top your yogurt or salad with almond slivers, or snack on a healthy trail mix. You can also try them in cooking. Sprinkle them on a rice or quinoa dish, or spread them across some salmon for a nice crunch. Choose unsalted almonds for additional cardiac protection.
Just be sure your almonds are raw or dry roasted (rather than oil roasted), and keep portion sizes in mind. Though they are heart-healthy they are also high in fat, some of which is saturated fat. Like other nuts, almonds are dense with calories, and a little can go a long way. They are best eaten in moderation.
Walnuts provide a lot of the same health protection as almonds and other tree nuts. They contain plant omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, fiber, heart-favorable monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and phytosterols.
Also like almonds, walnuts give salads a hearty crunch. They taste great added to muffins and breakfast pancakes.
Though they are heart-healthy, they are also high in fat and calories and should be eaten in moderation. As with all nuts, keep walnut portion sizes in mind. One serving of walnuts should fit neatly in the palm of your hand, a portion that provides about 200 calories.
Red wine contains types of flavonoids called catechins, as well as the antioxidant resveratrol. Flavonoids can help maintain the health of your blood vessels, and may help prevent blood clots. Resveratrol has been shown in the lab to have heart-protecting benefits.
Have a glass of wine with dinner, or make a wine spritzer – mix wine with sparking water – to cut calories while still getting many of the benefits.
Keep in mind, though, that the American Heart Association does not recommend people start drinking simply to prevent heart disease. Drinking alcohol carries a risk of alcoholism, and can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide, and auto accidents. Enjoy red wine in moderation.
Tuna contains omega-3 fatty acids. Although not as high in omega-3s as salmon, tuna does provide a moderately good amount. One serving of tuna also provides about half of your daily requirement of niacin, a nutrient that may improve survival odds for those who have had a heart attack.
Tuna salad (light on the mayo) is an easy lunch snack that will keep you full. Tuna makes a great salad topping, and can also be grilled for a tasty dinner.
Choosing Canned Tuna
Canned tuna is one of the most popular forms of seafood in America. But with all the choices, picking the right can is sometimes difficult. The two most common types are white tuna, made from albacore, and light tuna, made from smaller tuna types (usually skipjack). White has more omega-3s, but also higher mercury levels, a particular concern for pregnant women.
Some tuna comes in oil, and some come in water. Tuna in water contains significantly more omega 3 fat. That’s because plenty of that omega 3 fat is lost along with any oil you drain from the can.
Tofu is a great source of protein. It’s vegetarian. And it’s full of heart-healthy nutrients including niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Tofu is sometimes called “bean curd” because it is made from pressed soybean curd. It’s easy to prepare and can be part of almost any meal.
Thinly slice firm tofu, marinate for several hours and grill or add to your favorite veggie stir-fry. Make a tofu, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on whole grain bread, use instead of meats in pasta dishes, and add in slices or cubes to salads for added protein.
Avoid Processed Tofu Products
Although tofu has been shown in many studies to have heart-protective qualities, it depends on how you eat it. As healthy as it can be, tofu is not always in good company. It is included in many ultraprocessed foods, a type of food that has been associated with obesity and cardiovascular health problems. Its use in high-calorie processed foods led the FDA to revoke some of the heart health claims of tofu products in 2017.
Brown rice is not only tasty, it’s part of a heart healthy diet too. Brown rice provides B-complex vitamins, magnesium, and fiber.
You can add brown rice to just about any dish and you can’t go wrong. Microwaveable brown rice with a few chopped veggies makes an easy and quick lunch. Mix it with some black beans or tofu, make a stir-fry, add to soups, or try it cold mixed into an avocado salad.
Soy milk contains isoflavones (a flavonoid), and brings lots of nutrition into your diet. Nutrients include B-complex vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phytoestrogens. The protein found in soy milk, versus the protein found in animal milks, can help lower blood cholesterol levels and may provide other cardiovascular benefits.
Use soy milk in your whole grain breakfast cereal or blend in a smoothie, or replace the dairy milk in any recipe with soy milk.
Berries are good for your heart, along with the rest of your body. Blueberries are packed with nutrients that are part of a healthy diet, including beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), anthocyanin (a flavonoid), ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Berries are easy to eat as a healthy snack by themselves, or on top of your cereal or pancakes, or blend into a smoothie, top off your low-fat yogurt, or have some on a salad.
Carrots are probably best known as a great source of carotenes. They have lots of the well-known nutrient beta-carotene, but carrots are also a good source of both alpha and gamma carotenes (carotenoids). Studies have associated higher levels of beta carotene with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Baby carrots make a great snack. Chopped up they add crunch to salads, and you can even sneak shredded carrots into many recipes including tomato sauce, muffins, and pasta.
Spinach packs a heart-healthy punch with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber.
Spinach makes a great base for salads and can be used on sandwiches in lieu of lettuce. You can also sneak some into a fruit smoothie, add it to your pizza, or mix into an egg white omelet. Or add it to your pasta dish for a health bonus.
Fresh Spinach or Frozen?
It depends on how long it’s been sitting. Frozen spinach contains less folate than freshly harvested spinach, and some studies say folate might lower your risk of heart disease. However, there’s a catch—fresh spinach’s folate degrades over time. So, if your fresh spinach has been driven long distances before it reaches your table, or if you leave it in the fridge for a week, frozen spinach may actually be more nutritious.
Broccoli is a powerhouse vegetable with beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber.
Broccoli tastes great added to soups, mixed in with veggie dips, added to salads, or mixed with a brown rice dish. Adding more broccoli to your diet is a sure way to improve the health of your heart.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins. You will find vitamin A and C inside them, and sweet potatoes are a rare low-fat source of vitamin E. They also have potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber—and you get even more fiber when you eat their skins.
You can prepare a sweet potato almost any way you want and it will be tasty! Bake it whole and top with veggies. Cut it into slices and bake until crisp for healthy fries. Use a food processor and puree sweet potato for a creamy-tasting soup. They also make a great side dish mashed up.
Sweet potatoes are not the same as yams. Yams are healthy too, but sweet potatoes pack more nutrients and fiber.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are tangy, crunchy, and full of heart-healthy nutrients like beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex vitamins, folate, potassium, and fiber.
Peppers are delicious in salads and wraps, or cut into slices to snack on raw. Grill or roast them for a hearty side dish, or add to sauces or main dishes for extra flavor.
When it comes to heart-protective nutrients in bell peppers, color counts. Red peppers have significant stores of beta-carotene, for instance. While still healthy in many other ways, yellow bells have nearly no beta-carotene at all.
Asparagus is a healthy veggie that contains beta-carotene and lutein (both carotenoids), B-complex vitamins, folate, and fiber.
Asparagus makes an excellent heart-healthy side dish. Grill or steam lightly and sprinkle with some balsamic vinaigrette. Add to salads, stews, or casseroles for added health benefit.
Oranges are a perfect totable snack. They’re juicy and filled with nutrients such as the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin, carotenoids like beta- and alpha-carotene and lutein, as well as flavones (flavonoids), vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber.
The whole fruit is best, and tasty to eat on its own. You can also add orange slices to salads, yogurt, or even chicken dishes. Orange juice can also offer some of the same benefits, but pound for pound you are best off eating the fruit whole.
Tomatoes are a versatile heart-healthy food with beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids), vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. Lycopene in particular has been studied a possible protection from cardiovascular disease, though studies remain inconclusive.
Raw, tomatoes can be added to sandwiches or salads. Cooked, they make great sauces, and are perfect additions to pasta dishes.
Acorn squash is another heart-healthy food with beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex and C vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Baked acorn squash is a great winter food. To make this, simply cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, and fill with brown rice and veggies before roasting.
Cantaloupe is a summertime favorite that also contains heart-healthy nutrients such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex and C vitamins, folate, potassium, and fiber.
You can enjoy cantaloupe any time of day – just cut and eat! Also try some blended into a smoothie, or mix with other fruits for a fresh fruit salad.
Papaya contains the carotenoids beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lutein. It adds vitamins A and C to your diet, along with folate, calcium, and potassium.
Papaya goes great with heart-healthy salmon. Try it in a smoothie, fruit salad, frozen into a popsicle, added to salsa, or even grilled.
Good news! Chocolate contains heart-healthy resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids), which can lower blood pressure.
Stick to dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content to reap the benefits, and remember moderation is key because chocolate is high in calories, fat, and sugar. Only one serving is needed.
Like red wine, tea contains catechins and flavonols, which can help maintain the health of your blood vessels, and may keep blood clots from forming. Green tea in particular has been touted for its antioxidant properties.
Tea may reduce your risk for heart problems, according to one long-term study of more than 6,000 adults. The study found that adults who drank 1-3 cups of tea every day had better coronary calcium scores. Coronary calcium can be a precursor for heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems.
Enjoy tea hot or cold. Try adding some lemon. To get more antioxidants from the tea, brew with hotter water, and steep for at least three to five minutes. Avoid sugar or cream as these add unnecessary calories and fat.
Nutrients in Heart Healthy Foods
We’ve gone over many foods that make up a heart-healthy diet. But we’ve also introduced a lot of micronutrients. Do you know the difference between a phytoestrogen and a phytosterol? How does a B-complex vitamin compare with vitamin C? Use this chart as your guide to some of the heart-healthy nutrients listed in this slideshow.