If you enjoy a nibble on dark chocolate to satisfy a craving, you’re also helping your heart with every bite. URMC Nutritionist Sarah Merritt suggests incorporating it, and other heart-smart foods, into your diet.
Our daily diet is something we are in control of, and the food we consume plays such a pertinent role in not only heart health, but our overall health and well-being.
For example, dark chocolate is known to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure, a key to preserving your heart health. But remember, not all dark chocolate is created equal! Look for chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa to fully reap the benefits of this tasty—yet healthy—snack.
Here are a few other tasty ways to boost your health:
- Be open to oats—A bowl of warm, steel-cut oatmeal is full of fuel to energize you on a busy day and high in fiber, which helps cut LDL (bad) cholesterol. Sprinkle ground flaxseed into the mix for a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, known to help lower triglycerides and blood pressure.
- Look to the sea—Salmon and tuna are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim to eat some twice a week.
- Get a little nutty—Almonds, macadamia nuts and walnuts are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which help cut the bad cholesterol in our bodies.
- Be berry smart—Rich in antioxidants, berries help reduce inflammation and can lower blood pressure.
- Go green—Green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach are a great source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure.
As you plan your meals, every plate should be half-full of plant-based foods—fruits, vegetables and grains. Try to limit the amount of sodium, sugar, saturated fats and trans-fats.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States but it is largely preventable by diet and lifestyle changes. It is never too early or too late to start being heart-healthy. Try incorporating at least one of the heart-smart foods from the list above into your daily diet. Make it a point to get 20 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, which could be as simple as going for a walk around the block.
Small changes can make big differences!
Sarah Merritt teaches healthy living classes for the Center for Community Health & Prevention. She works with people facing heart disease every day. If you need support changing your diet, the Center for Community Health & Prevention provides a variety of programs to help people improve their diet and nutrition, lose weight and lower their cholesterol and blood pressure. Call (585) 530-2050.