Protect Your Ticker: 20 Heart Healthy Foods

heart plate with tape measure

Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the U.S. and in other developed countries. Chances are you or someone you know has experienced heart disease or the effects of it and know the impact it has on one's quality of life. You can start today by making changes in your diet and lifestyle that will decrease your risk of developing heart disease! Part of this strategy is to have a diet rich in heart-healthy foods and to incorporate moderate exercise in your daily schedule.

To make it easier for you to know what foods are considered heart-healthy, we have compiled a list of our favorite food items, selected especially for women.

1. Salmon: This fish is still the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which lowers "bad" cholesterol. It is best to grill or cook in light olive oil for heart-healthy cooking. Check out our Salmon Sushi Bowl recipe!

Salmon Sushi Bowls for Two

2. Ground flax seed: This foodstuff is different from other grains, as it contains omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens that normalize hormonal surges common in women. In addition, it contains a lot of fiber to cleanse the colon and prevent constipation.

flaxseed

3. Oatmeal: This is probably one of the best nutritious cereals. Like salmon and flax seed, it too contains omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, but it also has good amounts of magnesium, potassium and folate. Plus, it'll keep you full until lunch!

fruit oatmeal

4 & 5. Black or kidney beans: Women should increase servings of beans as it contains energy-releasing vitamin B complex to perk up sluggish metabolism, calcium for the bones and omega-3 fatty acids for the heart.

black beans

6. Tree nuts: Almonds and walnuts are very important for women, inside and out. They'll do wonders for your skin; they contain vitamin E which destroys free radicals to keep skin smooth and healthy. And besides containing omega-3s, it also contains heart-friendly mono and polyunsaturated fats that work together to lower bad cholesterol levels.

almond tree branch

7. Red wine: It contains just enough alcohol for a healthy heart while each glass contains catechins and resveratrol from grapes. These compounds are antioxidants that keep the arteries flexible and in good condition. Remember, stick to one glass after dinner for a healthy heart!

Red Wine

8. Tofu: Soybeans and its products have high amounts of niacin and folate, plus minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are important to support body processes in women and men. Click here to read more about tofu.

tofu

9, 10 & 11. Carrots, broccoli and asparagus: These vividly colored veggies are packed with carotenoids, which are converted into vitamin A in the body for good eyesight and vitamin B for steady release of energy.

broccoli

12 & 13. Sweet potatoes and squash: These spuds and squash contain carotenoids and vitamin B complex, which is important for the integrity of arterial walls. Their fiber content makes these foods filling and prevents rapid rise of blood sugar. Plus, they also prevent hormonal imbalances prevalent in women.

sweet potatoes
(Photo: Houston Press)

14, 15, 16 & 17. Cantaloupe, papaya, tomatoes and oranges: These fruits are vividly colored because of their antioxidant content, which are important for the healthy arteries.

tomato slice

18, 19 & 20. Coffee, tea and chocolate: Besides having caffeine, which stimulates brain function and creativity, these foods contain catechins, flavonoids, phenols and theobromine, which are very important for a healthy heart and blood vessels.

coffee