The foods that are best for you are never half as tasty as those that are slow killers. Try comparing a juicy cheese burger to a couscous salad. The comparison is just unfair. The cheeseburger will satiate your taste buds and cravings for the time being but will leave you feeling lethargic and stuffed whereas the couscous salad in all its natural goodness will leave you feeling light and healthy. Unfortunately, it is the cheeseburger that we crave. The saturated fats and simple carbs in these types of foods are one of the main reasons for the load on your ticker. There is no magic food that will ensure a healthy heart, however the inclusion of certain foods in our daily diet can keep our heart healthy.
With the multi-million dollar health industry urging you to eat the healthy food they have to offer, people end up spending outrageous amounts of money at trendy grocery stores buying health foods that cost way too much. Advertised as health foods that will do wonders to take the load off your heart, the stylishly-packaged whole foods are nothing but food in its most natural state. When it comes to vegetables and fruits then eating them raw, steamed, boiled or lightly sautéed will give you the best of it as these processes keep the food closest to its most natural state. Whole foods like oatmeal are great for you, however sugary processed oatmeal packets build up your sugar intake. While potato chips and fries clog your arteries, boiled or baked potatoes with their skin on are loaded with vitamins and essential nutrients.
Here’s a list of five healthy foods that if included in your meals will keep your heart healthy and strain free:
1. Whole grains: You can cut the risk of heart disease by almost 15% by including whole grains in your diet. Whole grains come with the entire kernel intact while milling removes the bran and the germ from the grain which is usually done to improve the shelf life. However, ditching these two ingredients strips the grain of vitamin B, fiber and iron. So why not eat the entire kernel and stack up on all the fiber? Not known to many, but fiber practically works as a scrubber inside your arteries, cleaning up the LDL.
Whole grains are also loaded with Vitamin E, omega-3-fatty acids and potassium. Oatmeal is one of the most healthy wholegrain choices. If you find oatmeal bland and unappetizing, pep it up with a dash of cinnamon and sweeten it with some fresh fruit. Another alternative is cooking it with fresh apple juice. Incorporating simple changes like switching to brown rice from white rice, selecting whole wheat bread can also go a long way.
2. Nuts: Nuts are a rich source of healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats raise the good cholesterol levels in the body, which act as an escort to the bad cholesterol and dumps it in the liver which then flushes it out of the system.
Which nuts should I be eating?
Walnuts and almonds top the list of heart healthy nuts and are a chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, Vitamin E, folate and magnesium. However, avoid candied or salted nuts, and honey-roasted or salted peanuts and cashews are also a big no no. Remember, moderation is the key.
3. Legumes: Beans are bursting with proteins, flavonoids and soluble fiber. They are virtually devoid of any fat but are amply loaded with iron, calcium and potassium. Diets including beans can lower the risk of heart disease and strokes as they are found to inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood.
4. Salmon/Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids offer a platter full of benefits to the human heart. They are known to improve the flexibility of the arteries, which helps in reducing blood pressure and protects from inflammation. Omega-3s also help to regulate the electrical impulsesand can help prevent irregular heart rhythms. Seafood is inherently loaded with this ‘super acid’, in which salmon wins the race. It is also a rich source of good protein. Both American Heart Association and FDA recommend eating fish at least twice a week to cut down cardiovascular risk.
5. Dark Chocolate: No! You didn’t read it wrong! Dark chocolate which contains at least 70 % cocoa is packed with flavanols that have a blood thinning effect ensuring effective blood circulation through the arteries. Cocoa also contains a compound called epicatechin which boosts the levels of nitric oxide, a substance that has been shown to be crucial to healthy blood vessels. Plentiful levels of nitric oxide help keep blood pressure from climbing. 
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