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Give Your Heart a Hand

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Incorporate these five heart-healthy foods into your diet.

heartahaandEatSmartEating right, exercising, cutting salt and quitting smoking are integral to a healthy heart. In fact, according to a study in the journal Circulation, eating a healthier diet can reduce the risk of heart attack by 35 percent! If you want to give your heart an extra boost, you can do that through nutrition too.

Our registered dietitian Julie Fortenberry recommends including some or all of these five superfoods in your balanced diet.

KALE  – Love it or hate it, this leafy veggie is here to stay. Because kale is so rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folate and other nutrients, it works to keep your heart healthy in multiple ways.

Try it: If you’re not a fan of kale, try cooking it down in a sauté pan with garlic, lemon juice and a splash of soy sauce. Or, toss a handful into a smoothie (where its flavor will hardly be noticeable).

ORANGES – It’s true that oranges are full of vitamin C, but they have so much more to offer! Pectin, a soluble fiber found in orange pulp, acts like a sponge to block cholesterol absorption.

Try it: Pack an orange as a mid-afternoon snack; throw a few slices into a salad; or gulp a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice — just be sure to get the kind with pulp!

SARDINES – When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, these little fish have a big impact. Omega-3s can work to reduce potentially dangerous heart arrhythmias and soothe inflammation in arteries. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a 38 percent reduction in ischemic heart failure among Danish women who consumed the most sardines.

Try it: Buy high-quality sardines tinned in olive oil. Try a few topped with spicy mustard, hot sauce or a squeeze of lemon juice.

STEEL-CUT OATS – The fiber in oats helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, while their lengthy digestion time prevents blood sugar from spiking.

Try it: Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and Dr. Teresa Fung, faculty members at the Harvard School of Public Health, suggest starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal and a side of orange wedges.

LEGUMES – Beans, lentils and other legumes can reduce blood pressure, while supplying plenty of fiber and lean vegetable protein. Lentils in particular have high levels of magnesium, which helps maintain a normal heart rhythm, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Try it: Lentil soup is a hearty, heart-healthy way to get the protein you need — all while doing your heart a favor.
FOR DESSERT: Dark chocolate Just a few squares of dark chocolate (with more than 70 percent cacao) per day can help reduce the risk of coronary disease! However, not all brands of chocolate are created equal — some chocolate-making processes, like dutching, can destroy the flavonols (heart-healthy compounds) naturally present in raw cacao. Try Ghirardelli Intense Dark chocolate bars, which have high levels of flavonols.