Red Wine and Resveratrol
If you drink alcohol, a little red wine may be a heart-healthy choice. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine, may protect artery walls. Alcohol can also boost HDL, the good cholesterol.
Tip: Don''t exceed one drink a day for women; one to two drinks for men -- and talk to your doctor first. Alcohol may cause problems for people taking aspirin and other medications. Too much alcohol actually hurts the heart.
Salmon: Super Food
A top food for heart health, it''s rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s may lower risk of rhythm disorders and reduce blood pressure. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and reduces inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.
Tip: Bake in foil with herbs and veggies. Toss extra cooked salmon in fish tacos and salads.
Tuna for Omega-3s
Tuna is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s; it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) contains more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. Reel in these other sources of omega-3s, too: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies.
Tip: Grill tuna steak with dill and lemon; choose tuna packed in water, not oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This oil, made from the first press of olives, is especially rich in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. When olive oil replaces saturated fat (like butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels. Polyphenols may protect blood vessels.
Tip: Use for salads, on cooked veggies, with bread. Look for cold-pressed and use within six months.
A small handful of walnuts (1.5 ounces) a day may lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. The benefits especially come when walnuts replace bad fats, like those in chips and cookies -- and you don''t increase your calorie count.
Tip: A handful has nearly 300 calories. Walnut oil has omega–3s, too; use in salad dressings.
Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, even desserts, and just a handful adds a good measure of heart health to your meals. They''re chock full of plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Tip: Toast to enhance almonds'' creamy, mild flavor.
Sweet potatoes are a hearty, healthy substitute for white potatoes for people concerned about diabetes. With a low glycemic index, these spuds won''t cause a quick spike in blood sugar. Ample fiber, vitamin A, and lycopene add to their heart-healthy profile.
Tip: Enhance their natural sweetness with cinnamon and lime juice, instead of sugary toppings.
This sweet, juicy fruit contains the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin -- as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. A small study shows that OJ may improve blood vessel function and modestly lower blood pressure through the antioxidant hesperidin.
Tip: A medium orange averages 62 calories, with 3 grams of fiber.
The latest research on carrots shows these sweet, crunchy veggies may help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. They''re also a top cholesterol-fighting food, thanks to ample amounts of soluble fiber -- the kind found in oats.
Tip: Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce and muffin batter.
Oats in all forms can help your heart by lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol. A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours, fights snack attacks, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable over time -- making it useful for people with diabetes, too.
Tip 1: Swap oats for one-third of the flour in pancakes, muffins, and baked goods. Use oats instead of bread crumbs in cooking.
Tip 2: Use skimmed milk instead of water in instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, and dried soups.
While low-fat dairy is most often touted for bone health, these foods can help control high blood pressure, too. Milk is high in calcium and potassium and yogurt has twice as much of these important minerals. To really boost the calcium and minimize the fat, choose low-fat or non-fat varieties.
Cayenne Chili Pepper
Shaking hot chili powder on food may help prevent a spike in insulin levels after meals. A small study in Australia showed that simply adding chili to a hamburger meal produced lower insulin levels in overweight volunteers.
Tip: Chili powder is a blend of five spices, while dried chili pepper comes from a single hot pepper. Both are good substitutes for salt in recipes.