Foods Your Heart Will Love

Tired of being TOLD what you can't have? Your heart -- and your taste buds -- will thank you for eating these delicious and healthy foods.

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Fish

While lean meats like chicken are a staple in many diets, most of us aren’t getting enough of those important omega-3 fats. Fish is a rich source of heart-protecting eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) . These fats can reduce irregular heart beats (which lead to cardiac arrest), reduce inflammation in the body, reduce “bad” cholesterol levels and lower the amount of dangerous triglycerides in the blood How much do you need? The current recommendations are two servings of fatty fish per week. Your body can store omega-3 fats, so you don’t need a daily dose. Atlantic mackerel, salmon (Atlantic and Chinook are best), Atlantic herring and rainbow trout have the highest levels of EPA and DHA, while tilapia, shrimp and haddock don’t have as much per serving. If you don’t like fish or are concerned about mercury levels, try a fish oil supplement instead. Another option is aim for plenty of alpha-linolenic acid (AHA) — another omega-3 fat that is found in flax, canola oil, salba and fortified foods.

Dark chocolate

There’s good reason to say yes (or oh yes ) to this decadent food. The catechins in dark chocolate are good for your heart. Some studies have found that they can lower blood pressure and improve your mood. The trick is to look for high quality dark chocolate that has at least 70 percent cocoa solids. Keep the portion sizes small to avoid weight gain — 6 grams is enough to see benefits (that’s about 30 calories). You can use dark chocolate in your baking, make your own hot chocolate using cocoa powder and drizzle it on fruit slices. You’ll still want to stay clear of high calorie, high fat milk chocolate. Sadly, white chocolate doesn’t offer the same benefits because it doesn’t contain cocoa.While dieticians note that you can have too much of this good thing, it’s one indulgence you don’t have to feel so guilty about (unless you want to — we often enjoy foods we think we shouldn’t have).

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Legumes and soy

Do you know what to do with a bag of dried beans, lentils or peas? In her book Beck notes that most people don’t use these beneficial ingredients because they aren’t sure how to prepare them. However, there are many good reasons to learn. These meat alternatives are high in fibre and don’t have saturated fat. Some studies have found that eating legumes a few times each week lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes. With the exception of soybeans, legumes also lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Legumes are a type of carbohydrate that digests slowly, meaning that they can improve blood sugar control. They also contain a powerful combination of vegetarian protein, folate, potassium and calcium. How can you include them in your diet? Use them instead of meat for three or four meals a week. Mixed bean salads, vegetarian chilli and soups are all popular options, but you can also toss legumes in salads or tomato sauce, and use tofu in stir fries or desserts. Beck notes that you can substitute half of the ground beef in recipes with beans in tacos and burritos. Another bonus: legumes are easy on the budget because they’re often a fraction of the cost of meat. (See Beans really are good for you for more information and recipes). Nuts If you’re familiar with the Mediterranean Diet then you already know that nuts are good for you. People who eat nuts two to four times a week have a lower risk of developing heart disease — and dying from it.

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Elizabeth Rogers of 50Plus.com
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