Heart-Healthy Eating
By Lisa Turner
10 surprising health foods to save your ticker

If you’re concerned about heart health, you probably know that you’re supposed to eat salmon and nuts, avoid saturated fat, and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. But did you know that blueberry jam, protein powder, and guacamole can have similarly heart protective effects? These and other packaged foods help reduce blood pressure, lower harmful LDL levels, increase HDL levels, and maintain blood vessel integrity. Here’s our list of top 10 packaged foods for heart health.


1. Guacamole. Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They also boost the absorption of carotenoids, especially beta-carotene and lycopene, both of which also benefit cardiovascular health.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Wholly Guacamole Organic Guacamole; Yucatan Foods Organic Guacamole.


2. Granola. Oats are great for your heart, so as long as it’s not high in fat and sugar, oat-based granola can be a great breakfast selection. You can stick to the basics, or choose varieties that contain chia or flax seeds for an extra heart healthy boost.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Granola Cereal (in Cranberry Pecan, Original, Pumpkin Fig, and Blueberry Hemp); Bakery on Main Gluten Free Granola (in Apple Raisin Walnut, Nutty Cranberry Maple, Extreme Fruit & Nut, Cranberry Orange Cashew, and Rainforest).


3. Hummus. Made from garbanzo beans, hummus is loaded with soluble fiber—one serving contains about a quarter of the daily recommended intake. In one study, eating a serving of beans four days a week reduced risk of heart disease by almost 25 percent.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Tribe Organic Hummus (in Classic, Garlic and Sweet Roasted Red Peppers); Hope Hummus (flavors include Organic Original Recipe, Organic Spicy Avocado, and Organic Thai Coconut Curry).


4. Chia seeds. Chia is rich in omega-3 fats, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re also loaded with soluble fiber. Look for chia seeds in protein powders, drinks, and bars, or buy whole seeds and add them to yogurt, smoothies, or oatmeal.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Health Warrior Chia Bars (in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Coconut, and Açai Berry); Mamma Chia Vitality Beverages (Cherry Lime, Coconut Mango, and Cranberry Lemonade).


5. Ketchup. Cooking and processing makes the heart-protective lycopene
in tomatoes easier to absorb. But many ketchups are loaded with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, so look for brands with natural sweeteners.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Organicville Organic Ketchup (with no added sugars); Sir Kensington Gourmet Scooping Ketchup (in Classic and Spiced flavors).


6. Cacao nibs. Chocolate is our favorite heart-healthy food. In one study, people who ate more chocolate had a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease. Cacao nibs, made from the whole cocoa bean, are packed with flavanols (a type of flavonoid), the nutrient that helps improve blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and reduces free radical damage.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Cacao Nibs; NibMor Organic Vegan Chocolate Bars (Original, Almond, Extreme, and Crispy).


7. Veggie burgers. Swap some of your animal protein for faux meat to reduce cholesterol and saturated fat intake, or go completely meat-free—some studies show that vegetarians have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Choose veggie burgers that are made with nuts, grains, and vegetables, and eat soy varieties in moderation.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Qrunch Foods Quinoa Burgers (gluten free); Organic Sunshine Burgers (in Original, Barbecue, Falafel, and other flavors).


8. Blueberry jam. It’s packed with anthocyanins, antioxidants that help reduce stiffness of artery walls and lower blood pressure. In studies, eating even moderate amounts of blueberries lowered blood pressure. Choose varieties made with 100 percent fruit and no added sugar.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Cascadian Farm Organic Blueberry Fruit Spread; Crofter’s Organic Wild Blueberry Premium Spread.


9. Whey protein. New studies suggest that whey protein powder helps maintain blood vessel function, reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, and improve lipid profile. Bonus: It can also reduce glucose levels and improve insulin response. Check ingredients, as some whey protein powders are high in sugar.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Source Naturals The True Whey; Tera’swhey Organic Whey Protein.


10. Peanut butter. Almond butter gets all the glory, but plain old peanut butter has a similar profile of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Peanuts also contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. Choose organic varieties, and if you’re worried about salmonella, look for Once Again Nut Butters—they test each batch for salmonella and other toxins.

Heart-Healthy Favorites: Once Again Peanut Butter; Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter.

Lisa Turner is a certified food psychology coach, nutritional healer, intuitive eating consultant, and author. She has written five books on food and nutrition, and she developed the Inspired Eats iPhone app. Visit her online at inspiredeating.com.

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