- Cook at home. In general, more than ¾ of the sodium we eat comes from food we didn’t cook ourselves—processed, pre-packaged, or restaurant foods. Try this heart healthy recipe for Roasted Salmon and Sautéed Spinach to get you started.
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt. These add great flavor to foods and there is growing evidence that the phytochemicals found in some may have cardiac benefits.
- Drink green tea. Phenols are the gem of the phytochemical group, which increase HDL levels--the good cholesterols that help protect the inner walls of blood vessels in the heart.
- Eat more nuts and whole grains. These contain phystosteroids, another class of phytochemical, which is credited with decreasing serum cholesterol levels. Ideally, go for natural, unsalted nuts and unbleached grains like 100% whole wheat, brown rice, and/or quinoa.
- Use extra virgin olive oil instead of other oils and butters. The nutty flavor adds depth to just about anything and the cardiac benefits of this staple of the Mediterranean diet are well documented.
- Go for garlic, chives, onions, and shallots. These contain allicin, a compound shown to help decrease blood pressure. Research suggests dried versions are less potent so opt for fresh whenever possible. And, if you’re worried about bad breath, just make sure your significant other has some too!
While we’re spotlighting certain foods for heart health, keep in mind that all natural foods have some health benefit. Rather than picking foods for one specific purpose, the biggest wins come from increasing our knowledge of foods and stocking our kitchens with healthy foods of all kinds so we reap the cumulative benefits of eating well.