Foods that are high in sugars or have a “high” rating on the glycemic index, can add to the total amount of sugar in your bloodstream. These excess sugars “cook” in your body and caramelize in your eyes – a reason why people with uncontrolled diabetes face blindness.
Almonds are full of vitamin E, plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes. Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, even desserts, and just a handful adds a good measure of heart health to your meals.
The fiber in barley can help lower cholesterol levels and may lower blood glucose levels, too. Try this nutty, whole grain in place of rice with dinner or simmer barley into soups and stews.
Black beans are packed with heart-healthy nutrients including folate, antioxidants, magnesium for lowering blood pressure, and fiber — which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
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.
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.
Cayenne Chili Pepper
Shaking hot chili powder on food may help prevent a spike in insulin levels after meals. A study showed that simply adding chili to a hamburger meal produced lower insulin levels.
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.
Coffee and tea may help protect your heart by warding off type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who drink 3-4 cups a day may cut their risk by 25% — and even decaffeinated coffee works. Caution is due, however, for those who already have diabetes or hypertension; caffeine can complicate these conditions.
They’re packed with soy protein, which can lower blood triglyceride levels. A half cup of edamame also has 9 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber — equal to four slices of whole-wheat bread. These green soybeans are moving beyond Japanese restaurants, where they’re a tasty appetizer.
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.
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.
Fresh herbs make many other foods heart-healthy when they replace salt, fat, and cholesterol. These flavor powerhouses, along with nuts, berries — even coffee — form a global approach to heart-wise eating. Read on for more delicious ways to fight heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
This may be worth a try for people with high blood pressure. The larger crystals impart more flavor than finely ground salt. A teaspoon of Kosher salt has 1,120-2,000 mg of sodium, while the daily limit for most people is 1,500 mg. Kosher salt may give you more salty flavor with less actual salt — and less sodium — than if you sprinkled table salt on your food.
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.
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.
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.
A top food for heart health, it’s rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s lower risk of rhythm disorders, which can lead to sudden cardiac death. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and reduces inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.
Want the heart-healthy power of vegetables in your milk or on toast? Margarine, soy milk, or orange juice can deliver — when they’re fortified with cholesterol-fighting sterols and stanols. These plant extracts block cholesterol absorption in the gut and can lower LDL levels by 10% without affecting good cholesterol.
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.
The dark green, leafy vegetable is rich in potassium and magnesium, minerals that help control blood pressure. Fiber, vitamin A, and the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, add to the heart-healthy profile.
Make soy protein the main attraction more often at dinnertime by cooking with tofu instead of red meat. You gain all the heart-healthy minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats of soy — and you avoid a load of artery-clogging saturated fat.
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.
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 come when walnuts replace bad fats, like those in chips and cookies — and you don’t increase your calorie count.
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.
Comprehensive Center for Women’s Medicine is a Multispecialty Holistic Practice. Vesna Skul, MD, Danuta Hoyer, MD, and Jean Walker, MD are nationally ranked in 11 specialties. U.S. News Top Doctors ranked them as the top 1% in the nation in their specialty. All three doctors have been ranked Top Women’s Doctors by Chicago Magazine.
Comprehensive Center for Women’s Medicine is located in the heart of Chicago’s Goldcoast. Visit them on the web at www.ccwm.com