Top Five Heart Healthy Foods

veggie_heartIt’s February – Cupid’s arrows are flying, hearts are fluttering and tokens of affection abound! With all the love in the air, what can you do to ensure that your heart is beating strong for your sweetie for years to come? Below are the top five heart healthy foods that can help keep your heart feeling happy and you feeling vibrant.

Wild Salmon – Wild salmon is full of health-promoting omega 3 fatty acids, which can assist in reducing blood pressure and lowering overall inflammation in your body. These powerful fatty acids can also decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke as they make blood less likely to clot as it circulates around your body.

*A note on farmed salmon – while farmed salmon tend to be higher in fat than their wild-caught brethren, they tend to be much lower in omega-3 fatty acids. A study conducted by the Department of Agriculture showed that wild-caught coho salmon had 33% more omega-3s than farmed salmon while still being lower in total fat content. In addition, farmed salmon may contain unwanted PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and antibiotic residues. Make sure to stick with wild for maximal heart benefit. 

Blueberries – These guys may be little, but they are packed with antioxidants, which help support the body’s ability to cope with oxidative damage caused by free radicals. When LDL (low-density lipoprotein, aka the “bad” cholesterol) becomes oxidized by free radicals, heart disease risk increases. If you’re not a fan of blueberries, don’t fret. Most berries will have similar health effects. Try blackberries, raspberries, marionberries, boysenberries

Garlic – Thanks to its sulfur-containing compounds, garlic not only gives off its distinctive odor, but it has the ability to lower cholesterol levels.  In addition to decreasing circulating lipids, recent studies have shown that garlic may potentially reverse and prevent atherosclerosis, or the formation of plaque buildup along arterial walls. Garlic may also enhance your body’s ability to ward of blood clots by decreasing aggregation of platelets. If you choose a garlic-rich meal on Valentine’s just make sure your sweetie has some too!

Lentils – These legumes are high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to decrease coronary heart disease (CHD) and lower LDL cholesterol. Lentils also come full of necessary vitamins and minerals, particularly folate and magnesium for maintaining a healthy heart.

Dark Chocolate – Yes, chocolate can be a health food, just in moderation. In small amounts 2–3 times per week, dark chocolate can decrease blood pressure thanks to cocoa phenols and flavonols. Dark chocolate also contains epicatechin, a powerful antioxidant. When buying your Valentine’s Day chocolate, make sure to choose at least 70 percent or higher cocoa content as milk chocolate does not have the same health benefits and may actually be harmful to health.

By: Malea MacOdrum 4th year medical student edited by Dr Elise Schroeder