Love Yourself, Love Your Organs: The Best Heart-Healthy Foods

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You are what you eat.

No, that isn’t a throwback to a schoolyard insult. The food you consume directly affects how you feel. If you eat greasy fast food before going for a jog, the odds are against you.

This type of nutrition information isn’t rocket science, and yet, many have a hard time making the connection between what we eat and how we feel. Luckily, there is an immense amount of research dedicated to this topic. So while we go about our busy days juggling meetings and arguing cases, we can still benefit from this knowledge—therefore making healthier choices and feeling better overall.

“The food-mood connection is real and can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life,” said Dan Labriola in “Food, mood and you.”

Of course, eating nutritious food affects far more than just your mood and mental state, it also greatly impacts your physical health. There are certain foods that are known to be healthy all-around, while others have been proven to be particularly helpful when it comes to targeting certain parts of your body. Common examples include eating carrots to improve your eyesight and drinking milk to build strong bones.

The American Heart Association asserts that “a healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease.” In honor of American Heart Month, and in the spirit of the “month of love,” we decided to take a look at the foods that are proven to strengthen and protect your heart. The following are all healthy foods in general, and they also possess specific components that work to keep your heart in tip-top shape—so you will have decades more in which to make up for that one year you forgot to buy flowers!

The Best Heart-Healthy Foods:

 

Oatmeal w bgOatmeal: Oats are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate and potassium. Health.com reports that oats can help keep arteries clean and lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) by way of high-fiber content. In fact, steel-cut oats have even more soluble fiber than instant varieties, which reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.

fresh salmon steak on white backgroundSalmon: Also packed with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can reduce your blood pressure and help prevent future blood clotting. This is true for several other types of fish as well, including Mackerel, Albacore Tuna and Halibut. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.

AvocadoAvocado: Avocados are loaded with healthy fat (monounsaturated), which increases the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol in your body while reducing the bad (LDL). This is vital because The American Heart Association says that “high cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”

olive Oil 3Olive oil: Similar to the heart-healthy benefits found in avocados, olive oil lowers your bad cholesterol while still maintaining the good, and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. As far as oils go, olive oil is one of the lowest in saturated and trans fats. Even so, it should be used in moderation.

Three_RaspberriesBerries: Chock-full of anti-inflammatories, berries help to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. They are high in antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and fiber. In a recent study cited on Health.com, it was found that adding a few berries a day to your diet can reduce the risk of a heart attack. These “super fruits” include blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and acai berries.

Fresh green vegetable, isolated over whiteVegetables: An important part of a healthy diet, vegetables are high in necessary vitamins and minerals. A recent Physicians’ Health Study examined the nutrition and lifestyle of more than 15,000 men without heart disease for a period of 12 years. Those who ate at least two-and-a-half servings of vegetables each day cut their risk of heart disease by about 25%. Each additional serving reduced the risk by another 17%.

Overall, a heart-healthy diet is considered one that is rich in veggies, fruit, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich whole grains, and lean meats, including fish. Whether your goal is to run a marathon, lose weight, or just be more mindful, this is a tried-and-true nutrition outline that should be the basis of all that follows in getting “fit to practice!”

 

By Courtney Gibb, the communications and marketing specialist for the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations and editor of The Docket. She can be reached at cgibb@cobar.org.

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