To give your heart the healthy boost it deserves, try the Mediterranean diet: more nuts, vegetables and whole grains, and less salt and trans fats. Here are five of our favorite foods:
1. Leafy greens
Going green takes on new meaning when it comes to your heart. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, bok choy and many more green veggies are packed with vitamins that support heart health, such as vitamins A, C and K. Additionally, leafy greens are rich in fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Recipe to try: Crispy kale chips
It's not the best for your breath, but in terms of heart health, garlic is bursting with benefits. It can help control blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce hardened arteries and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack. But if the breath thing is still deterring you, just chew some parsley; it's a natural breath freshener.
Recipe to try: Oven-roasted zucchini with lemon and garlic
3. Whole grains
From oats to barley, whole grains are not only versatile, but also are packed with good sources of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber can help improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Plus, whole grains can help you feel full with fewer calories, so they're a great option if you're trying to lose weight.
Recipe to try: Quinoa, black bean and sweet potato bowl
They're delicious and easy to eat on-the-go. But nuts are more than a convenient snack food. Besides being packed with protein, most nuts contain heart-healthy substances, like unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and vitamin E. Swapping nuts for unhealthy snacks can do wonders for your health — just remember to limit portions as they are high in calories.
Recipe to try: Heart-healthy yogurt parfait
5. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains high levels of cocoa — rich in plant chemicals known as flavanols that may help protect the heart. Research has shown that flavanols may help lower blood pressure and increase insulin sensitivity, which could reduce the risk of diabetes. But experts warn that chocolate still contains saturated fat and sugar, so it should be eaten in moderation and in small quantities.
Recipe to try: Dark chocolate and peppermint truffles
Looking for more heart-healthy cooking ideas? Visit our Mediterranean recipes page.