Thursday, June 11, 2009

heart-healthy foods

My friend Jen is 31 and was surprised at a recent physical to discover that she had high cholesterol.  Jen works very hard to provide a clean diet for herself and her family, eating organic foods, and not eating a lot of processed foods.  It never entered her mind that she might have high cholesterol.

As we were talking I mentioned that there are a few simple things that she can do to start making heart-healthy changes to her diet.  Although this list does not cover everything that you would need to do it covers the top five foods you should add to your diet for heart health.  This, of course, would be after you make other healthy changes such as quitting smoking, not eating anything with trans-fatty acids and adding some form of daily exercise to your routine (even just a 15 minute walk a day if that's all you can do to start; check out my previous post to calculate how far you walk jog run).

Flax seed: High in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids flax seeds are a great way to reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or bad, cholesterol.  With a nutty, rich taste flax seeds are a great addition to baked goods, cereals, or even sprinkled into smoothies.

Oat bran:  With high levels of soluble fiber oat bran helps to reduce LDL cholesterol.  Oat bran can be eaten as a cereal, cooked into muffins or cookies or even substituted for part of the flour in a bread recipe.

Cold water fish:  High in heart-healthy omega 3 oils this is a great way to add protein to your diet.  Versatile and quick to cook you can grill, sautee, broil or steam these fish for a great meal.  Fish in this category include salmon, sardines, tuna, rainbow trout, and herring.

Garlic:  Adding garlic to your diet has been shown to be very beneficial as it can lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, or good, cholesterol.  Garlic is also good for reducing platelet aggregation (which is where the platelets stick together in the blood and can form a clot).  You can read an article I wrote about garlic here.

Spinach:  High in Co-Q10, which is important for heart (and muscle) health, as well as lutein, an antioxidant which can help reduce hardening of the arteries, spinach is a wonderful food to add to the diet.  Spinach is also high in folate which is effective in reducing homocysteine in the blood and magnesium which is helpful for reducing blood pressure.

Be heart-healthy; eat well, be well.
1. Haas, Elson, " Staying Healthy with Nutrition", Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, 1992, pp. 277

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