Heart disease is a leading cause of death among women and being aware of that is an important step toward taking charge of your health. This is because most cardiovascular disease can be prevented with healthier lifestyle choices.
Besides working out, what can you do? Eating a heart-healthy diet is another step. According to Robert A. Vogel, MD, advising cardiologist to the Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab program, this includes an eating plan focused on fiber-rich, unrefined carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Dr. Vogel shared some examples of foods that have great benefits for maintaining heart health.
Dark Leafy Greens
“Using dark leafy greens—like baby kale—is similar to cooking with fresh spinach,” he explains. “It adds fiber, iron, vitamins, calcium and antioxidants to any meal, all while tasting fabulous, filling you up and helping to keep you full.” When using these greens in salads, it is important to remember to stick to low-calorie dressings, and Dr. Vogel reminds us that high-calorie toppings like cheese and bacon should be avoided.
Fresh Fruit Or Unsweetened Frozen Fruit
“Fruits, from berries to melons to mangoes to bananas, are nutritional powerhouses,” he shares. “They are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.”
Hot Oatmeal Cereal
“Whole grains like oatmeal are a great source of fiber, which can help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol,” notes Dr. Vogel. Even better, plain oatmeal can be topped with fruits, soy milk and more, making it feel like a different meal every time you eat it!
This starchy vegetables is one of the most filling foods we can eat. “For added flavor, be sure to avoid artery-busters like sour cream and butter,” urges Dr. Vogel. “Instead choose healthy, delicious, calorie-light toppings like fresh salsa or fat free yogurt.”
“Modest amounts of omega-3-rich fish like salmon—just two to three 4 ounce servings a week—deliver loads of health benefits, especially for your heart,” shares Dr. Vogel. “Research points to reductions in risk of coronary- and stroke-related deaths, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and even helping prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people older than 49.”
Dr. Vogel shares that beans are the perfect food. “They are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates, they’re very low in fat and virtually sodium-free,” he notes. “A cup of high-fiber beans, like pinto or black beans, tallies up 16 grams of fiber.” Dr. Vogel notes that you would have to eat to eat about eight slices of whole-wheat bread to get the same amount of fiber. “And, its primarily cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber, which makes beans an excellent heart-healthy alternative to meat.”