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Food Lion dietitian offers heart healthy foods

During March, as Americans honor National Nutrition Month, there’s no better reminder to take care of your heart.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 600,000 people, or one out of four, die of heart disease in the U.S. every year. To help customers obtain optimal heart health, Food Lion’s private brand dietitian Tara Smith offers customers a list of 10 heart healthy foods, and how they help.

“If you’re looking to improve heart health and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, it’s best to eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties,” Smith said. “Generally speaking, this would include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish. Consuming fresh foods as much as possible while limiting processed and fast foods will also help reduce and protect against inflammation.”

Below are 10 heart healthy foods, as outlined by Smith:

  1. Dark green leafy vegetables – Broccoli, kale and spinach are some of the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. These powerhouse vegetables are packed with vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, folate and fiber, all of which are excellent for your heart. They are also low in calories, with an average of 25 calories per serving. 
  2. “Fatty” fish – Salmon and sardines, packed in water or olive oil, contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which protect against inflammation. Aim for at least two servings of three to four ounces each, per week.
  3. Walnuts – This simple food contains vitamin E, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, B-vitamins and an array of minerals including iron, magnesium, copper and zinc. Walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, and are a good source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linoleic acid. You only need to consume a small handful to reap their benefits.
  4. Quinoa – This trendy food is usually referred to as a grain, but it is actually a seed. With no cholesterol and very little sodium, combined with phytonutrients and flavonoids, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties, quinoa makes for a perfect food for your heart.
  5. Lean meats – Beef and poultry naturally contain saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which can negatively impact heart health. Choose lean cuts of beef, such as eye of round roast and top sirloin steak, and limit your intake of red meat to just a few servings per week. White meat poultry without the skin and bones, like chicken breast or tenderloins, will help you trim down your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol while providing you with high quality protein.
  6. Extra virgin olive oil – This monounsaturated fat contains natural compounds called phenols, which provide cardiovascular benefits and reduce your risk of heart disease. Use this as your main cooking oil instead of regular plant oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn or mixed vegetable.
  7. Tea – Good quality green, white and black tea contain antioxidants called flavonoids which help fight against free radicals that contribute to heart disease, and also improve cholesterol levels. Remember, the more processed the tea leaves, the less flavonoid content.
  8. Whole grains – A true whole grain that has anti-inflammatory properties must be intact, or whole, not ground into flour. Whole grains are great sources of fiber, which positively impacts cholesterol levels and digestive health. Try brown rice, wild rice oats or rye to boost fiber intake at your next meal.
  9. Legumes – Dry beans and lentils are widely touted for their health benefits and are among the most inexpensive foods you can buy. Not only are they a good source of protein, legumes are rich in potassium, magnesium, folic acid and B vitamins. The soluble fiber found in legumes assists in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Overall, legumes have been shown to reduce the risk of death from heart disease.
  10. Plain dark chocolate — Enjoy small amounts, about one ounce, of this indulgent treat a few times per week to get the benefits of flavonoids found in dark chocolate. Flavonoids help protect plants from toxins and repair damage, and it appears that we benefit in the same way when eating flavonoid-rich foods.

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