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Keep the Love Alive: Top Heart-Healthy Foods (Wine Included!)

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In honor of February, American Heart Month, The American Heart Society is promoting a Go Red for Women campaign. With heart disease being the number one killer of women, AHS is spreading the truth and myths about the disease and tips for prevention. Since eating well is a huge part prevention, we at Eating Our Words would like to do our part in spreading the word.

Here's a list of delicious and nutritious Heart Healthy Foods (including my personal faves, red wine and dark chocolate!).

Blueberries A powerful disease-fighting food, the blueberry is rich in anthocyanins, the health-promoting antioxidant that gives it its dark blue color (pomegranates are also rich in this powerful polyphenol). Blueberries are also a great source of fiber and Vitamin C. Incorporate them into your diet regularly by adding them to whole-grain cereal, topping off fat-free yogurt, or working them into your low-fat muffins or pancake recipes.

Beans Beans, beans, they're good for your heart. The more you eat...you know how it goes. But the proof is in the lyrics; they are good for your heart. They contain a number of heart-protective chemicals which have been shown to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Fill up on fiber-rich black beans and kidney beans. Or try other legumes like chickpeas and lentils.

Oatmeal These delicious whole grains are packed with vitamins, minerals, and bad cholesterol (LDL) lowering fiber. Check out last month's post on oatmeal for ideas on how to incorporate more of the heart-healthy whole grain into your diet.

Salmon Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, heart-healthy fats that have been shown to lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Other omega-3 rich fish include tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel. The AHA advises eating these fish twice a week for heart-healthy benefits (limiting albacore tuna to six ounces a week to minimize mercury exposure).

Spinach Rich and dark in color, spinach is loaded with disease fighting phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. There's a reason Popeye looked so damn good. This delicious veg is iron-packed and rich in folate, potassium, and fiber. Enjoy a nutrient-dense spinach salad as an alternative to the wasteland that is iceberg lettuce. Sauté with a little olive oil, salt, crushed red pepper and lemon for an easy delicious side. Or try my favorite; add it to a heart-healthy homemade pizza. Another great alternative? Nutrient-packed kale.

Apples & Bananas Apples and bananas are two heart-healthy fruits that can be found anywhere. Apples, rich in both fiber and vitamin C, contain strong antioxidant flavanoids that play key roles in preventing bad cholesterol from building plaque in the arteries. Bananas are an amazing source of potassium, which helps to maintain a balance of sodium levels in the body and can lead to healthy blood pressure.

Soy Soy contains high levels of heath-boosting fiber, vitamins and minerals. In addition, soy is low in saturated fat, helping to reduce blood cholesterol when replaced with proteins high in saturated fat like red meat. Replace unhealthy saturated fat with rich proteins with tofu. The fat-free soybean product will soak up whatever bold flavors you'd like. Use soy milk for a delicious and nutrient-packed alternative for your cereal, coffee, or smoothie. Try snacking on edamame, a green soybean that you can find fresh or frozen in your local grocery store.

Red Wine Hallelujah! Can I just say it now? This one's my favorite. Drinking in moderation has been shown to protect the heart by raising good cholesterol (HDL) levels, thinning the blood to prevent blood clots, and decreasing inflammation. Do note: moderation is key.

Dark Chocolate Okay, maybe this one's my favorite. It's close, though. Either way, research has shown that moderate amounts of the antioxidant-packed treat can boost the immune system and increase cardiovascular health. Go for the "darker" chocolate: The more cacao content, the more health benefits. Look for good-quality dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa to ensure the potential benefits aren't outweighed by sugar and fat.

For more information and tips on prevention, check out one of the Memorial Hermann-sponsored Red Wine & Dark Chocolate Evenings, a physician-led event where you can learn about the keys to heart health while sipping on wine and munching on heart-healthy dark chocolate.

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