The list of healthy nutrients in blueberries is extensive: anthocyanins give them their deep blue color and support heart health. Blueberries also contain ellagic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Tip: Add fresh or dried blueberries to cereal, pancakes, or yogurt. Puree a batch for a dessert sauce.
Cherries are packed with anthocyanins, an antioxidant believed to help protect blood vessels. Cherries in any form provide these heart-healthy nutrients: the larger heart-shaped sweet cherries, the sour cherries used for baking, as well as dried cherries and cherry juice.
Tip: Sprinkle dried cherries into cereal, muffin batter, green salads and wild rice.
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.
This shiny, honey-colored seed has three elements that are good for your heart: fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The body converts ALA to the more powerful omega-3s, EPA and DHA.
Tip: Grind flaxseed for the best nutrition. Add it to cereal, baked goods, yogurt, even mustard on a sandwich.
Try this nutty, whole grain in place of rice with dinner or simmer barley into soups and stews. The fiber in barley can help lower cholesterol levels and may lower blood glucose levels, too.
Tip: Hulled or “whole grain” barley is the most nutritious. Barley grits are toasted and ground; nice for cereal or as a side dish. Pearl barley is quick, but much of the heart-healthy fiber has been removed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mild, tender black beans are packed with heart-healthy nutrients including folate, antioxidants, magnesium, and fiber — which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Tip: Canned black beans are quick additions to soups and salads. Rinse to remove extra sodium.