Fresh produce provides the cornerstone for a heart-healthy diet because it helps wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting blood vessels. It's what Zumpano calls "the whole-foods diet. You want everything to be in its natural form, as it comes from the ground, the less processed the better," she says.
Whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, fatty fish, and teas are just as important -- offering all sorts of complex heart-protective phytonutrients. That's why variety is best in selecting heart-healthy foods, says Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Here are a few top-performers:
Omega-3 fatty acids.
Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.
Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.
3. Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sauteed spinach, pine nuts, raisins.
Give your Valentine the gift of a healthy heart, stay active and enjoy your food.