MEDICAL MATTERS: What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart?
A heart-healthy diet is fundamental in preventing heart disease, even with the use of current prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. Thus, it is important to understand the value of a good diet in heart disease prevention.
Diets that are cholesterol-free, such as plant-based diets or low in cholesterol, processed and refi ned foods, can markedly reduce serum cholesterol levels and help to prevent heart diseases as part of a healthy lifestyle.
My patients frequently ask me: what fruits and vegetables are best as part of a heart-healthy diet?
- A handful a day of nuts such as almonds and walnuts. It’s filling and will help your heart.
- Berries including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries are very nutritious with phytonutrients and fiber.
- Dark beans including black beans and kidney beans are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Colorful vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and acorn squash have carotenoids, fibers and multiple vitamins which complement a heart-healthy diet.
- Spinach is a great leafy vegetable packed with great nutrients and can be used instead of lettuce.
- Steamed or boiled asparagus is low calorie and has beta-carotene and fiber.
- Broccoli is also a great snack with multiple vitamins, folate, calcium and nutrients.
- Tomatoes are excellent either fresh or sun-dried. Sun-dried is a convenient way to enjoy them.
- In general, fruits are rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, potassium, magnesium and fiber. However, fruits could have a high sugar content requiring attention in diabetics.
- A small amount daily of dark chocolate with at least 70 percent of cocoa can also be heart healthy.
It is always preferable to eat these food products unprocessed and in their natural form, just as they come out of your backyard garden, rather than canned or already processed. If you do not want to grow your own, take advantage of the local Farmers Markets this summer. Your heart will be glad that you did!