By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
What do salmon, berries, leafy greens and nuts have in common? They are all heart-smart foods that ably nourish the body and help combat unhealthy cholesterol, hypertension and heart disease. But it’s not just a single food in isolation that can help protect your heart. Rather, it’s a combination of nourishing foods and a consistent pattern of healthy eating that has the greatest impact.
Studies show that 2 dietary patterns are particularly helpful for heart health: the Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. Both eating patterns are chock-full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy, and recommend reducing the consumption of red meat, sweets and salty snacks.
Both eating plans emphasize whole, unprocessed foods instead of ultra-processed foods, such as processed meats and cheeses as well as refined breads and other carbs. So, preferably choose apples and carrots rather than apple pie and carrot cake.
Why are these food plans so powerful for heart health? Together, these foods provide fiber, which helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels; antioxidants to reduce inflammation; and a host of cardio-protective vitamins and minerals essential for good health. This approach is also lower in sodium, sugars and trans fat, which may raise your risk of heart disease when eaten in excess.