You’ve heard the term, superfoods. But what exactly do they do, and what makes them so super?
Super foods, also known as functional foods are basically foods that in addition to giving us calories also contain amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, even phytochemicals, which are thought to have disease-fighting properties. Basically, superfoods give us a bit more of a super boost of health with each bite.
In honor of National Heart Health month, here are some super foods you might want to consider adding to your diet, to feed your heart and in turn keep it healthy and happy for years to come.
Go for Omega-3’s:
Omega-3’s have been lauded for helping to tackle high cholesterol by lowering triglycerides according to the American Heart Association (AHA). High triglycerides are thought to increase risk of heart disease. Chia seeds (also known as an ancient grain) have the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids of any plant-based food. Chia seeds also contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which could wreak havoc on cells and allow for pathways to disease if left unchecked. In addition, protein-rich chia seeds contain a number of minerals, including magnesium, which is thought to help protect against hypertension.
Other sources of Omega-3’s include: flaxseeds, which are thought to help lower cholesterol and reduce the formation of arterial plaque. Fatty fish, too, such as salmon, lake trout and anchovies. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating one to two servings of fish per week, to lower your risk of heart disease. Nuts qualify, too. Nuts are thought to lower blood levels of low-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as LDL or the bad cholesterol. Try: chia or flax seeds, seafood or walnuts, almonds, cashews or pecans sprinkled on your next salad.
Green tea has been shown to be rich in antioxidant polyphenols and catechins, which help to fend off cell damage. A recent study presented at an AHA conference, suggested that tea drinkers tend to have fewer major heart events than those who don’t drink tea. Black tea and Rooibos, or red tea, have also been shown to be rich in antioxidants.
There is good reason quinoa has become the superstar that it is. It’s gluten-free, a good source of protein, rich in minerals and amino acids, including lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Whole grains such as quinoa have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. The dietary fiber from whole grains, such as quinoa, millet, bulgur or buckwheat, is thought to improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke according to AHA. Try: quinoa, millet, bulgur or buckwheat.
We know we’ve touted its benefits before, but dark chocolate is an antioxidant rich in flavonoids, which are thought to help increase blood circulation while reducing inflammation. This means when you take your next bite of dark chocolate you can do it in the name of helping your heart.
Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit:
Affordable, relatively easy to cook and versatile, what’s not to like about beans? Add to the list the fact that they are an excellent source of fiber and thought to help lower LDL cholesterol. Try: pinto, kidney or black beans in chili or your next burrito.
Look for Lycopene:
This is the carotenoid that gives fruits and veggies its red, orange and yellow coloring. It’s also another strong antioxidant that has been linked to protecting against stroke. It’s thought to help reduce inflammation and cholesterol. Try: tomatoes, watermelon and papaya.
Eat Your Veggies:
Go for the crunchy cruciferous veggies to get a good dose of Vitamin C and folic acid. Studies have shown these vitamins to have a positive influence on heart health. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in the carotenoid lutein and antioxidants, also thought to help prevent heart disease. Try: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy or kale.
And Fruit, too:
Fruit also is rich in heart healthy vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Go for red and purple fruits rich in anthocyanins, which not only give these fruits their color but are also bioflavonoids that have powerful antioxidant properties. Try: strawberries, pomegranates, cranberries, raspberries and blueberries.