February is American Heart Month, which may have you considering some changes to your diet to keep your cholesterol down, manage your blood pressure, and promote overall good health. When you picture a heart-healthy diet, you may have foods like plain brown rice and flavorless fish in mind, but there are actually many flavorful foods that can go a long way for your heart health. There are also a number of foods you can add to the dishes you already eat to boost their nutritional value and let you indulge guilt-free.
Whole grains are high in soluble fiber, which acts like a sponge for bad cholesterol in the blood stream. Oatmeal is particularly beneficial for your heart, and it is almost too easy to eat when you prepare overnight oats to have a wholesome breakfast waiting in the fridge. Simply soak your oats in milk and yogurt and add your favorite fruits for a great breakfast that will start your day right.
Those omega-3 fatty acids (good fats) that have made fish such a popular choice for heart healthy eating are also found in flax seeds, which can be sprinkled on just about any food. If you are looking for a way to make your favorite dessert recipes healthier, cut the sugar and add a few spoonfuls of flax to the recipe.
Carrots and sweet potatoes
Both carrots and sweet potatoes can please even the pickiest eaters and offer antioxidants like alpha-carotene and beta-carotene along with plenty of fiber to your diet. These veggies can be roasted, shredded into soups and sauces, or even blended into smoothies.
The health benefits of green tea sound almost too good to be true; drinking green tea daily can help drive down your risk of heart disease and stroke by nearly 20%. However, you do have to drink quite a bit of green tea to experience optimal effects—about 4 cups. Cold brewing your green tea and carrying it with you during the day can help you drink more of this great beverage, which will also let you stay hydrated.
As you add these foods to your diet, remember that good eating is only part of the equation. Seeing the doctor regularly for checkups will help you create a complete routine for heart health.