Don't Miss a Beat

Plant-based foods are near and dear to our hearts—so indulge to keep your ticker healthy.



istock.com/picalotta

When we think of February, we think of Valentine’s Day—winged Cupids, bountiful floral bouquets, sumptuous food. 

On a less romantic note, February is also American Heart Month, which brings to mind the foods we ought to be consuming to keep our tickers ticking: plant-based foods. In a nutshell, that’s the advice from the American Heart Association, nutritionists and dietitians.

“Any plant food is going to be heart healthy,” says Sherri Flynt, manager of the Center for Nutritional Excellence at Florida Hospital. Plant foods are free of saturated fats and cholesterol and rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which can help protect the body from inflammation, or cell damage, Flynt says.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and potassium are also essential to heart health, says Dawn Napoli, a registered dietitian at the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health. The omega-3s can help protect against heart disease, while potassium is integral to heart function.


Foods to Take Heart

Avocado
Rich in monounsaturated fats that may help lower cholesterol levels; high in antioxidants and potassium, which lowers blood pressure.

Blueberries
Contain flavonoids that help lower blood pressure and dilate blood vessels, making them less susceptible to injury that could lead to plaque buildup.

Edamame/Tofu
Great cholesterol-free protein sources. Soy proteins such as these have been found to help decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.

Fatty Fish
(Wild-caught salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, lake trout) Contains omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of an irregular heartbeat and plaque buildup, and help to reduce high triglyceride levels. 

Flaxseeds
Excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber; reduces blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure.

Green Vegetables 
(Broccoli, spinach and kale) High in carotenoids that help eliminate potentially heart-harmful compounds from the body; good source of fiber. Kale also contains a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Nuts
Contain heart-healthy fiber and vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps lower LDL cholesterol.

Oats/Oatmeal
Contains soluble fiber that “soaks up” cholesterol and eliminates it from the body.  

Olives/Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Contains monounsaturated fatty acids that have been found to lower total cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol. These fatty acids also may help normalize blood clotting and benefit insulin levels.

Quinoa
Rich in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids; contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains.

Strawberries
High in fiber, vitamins, and chemical compounds called anthocyanins, which may lower blood pressure by helping to keep blood vessels relaxed so that blood can flow smoothly.

Tomatoes 
Good source of the antioxidant lycopene, which may help to lower LDL cholesterol, keep blood vessels dilated and lower heart attack risk. 

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