Heart-Healthy Foods (cont.)

13. Carrots
Nutrients: Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.
Menu Idea: Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.

14. Spinach
Nutrients: Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Menu Idea: Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.

15. Broccoli
Nutrients: Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Menu Idea: Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).

16. Sweet potato
Nutrients: Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.
Menu Idea: Microwave in a zip-lock baggie for lunch. Eat au naturale, or with pineapple bits.

17. Red bell peppers
Nutrients: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Menu Idea: Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.

18. Asparagus
Nutrients: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
Menu Idea: Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It's a pretty side dish.

19. Oranges
Nutrients: Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Menu Idea: Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends.

20. Tomatoes
Nutrients: Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Menu Idea: For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.

21. Acorn squash
Nutrients: Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Menu Idea: Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sauteed spinach, pine nuts, raisins.

22. Cantaloupe
Nutrients: Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Menu Idea: A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!

23. Papaya
Nutrients: Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Menu Idea: Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.

24. Dark chocolate
Nutrients: Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids).
Menu Idea: A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.

25. Tea
Nutrients: Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids).
Menu Idea: Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.

Your Guide to Nutrients in Heart-Healthy Foods

Phytoestrogensare substances in plants (like flaxseed) that have a weak estrogen-like action in the body. Studies suggest that flaxseed lowers the risk of blood clots, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmias. It may also help lower total and LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides, and even blood pressure.

Phytosterols are plant sterols that chemically resemble cholesterol -- and seem to reduce blood cholesterol. All nuts and seeds, including wheat germ, have phytosterols.

Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids.

Polyphenols are another set of antioxidants that protect blood vessels, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol. Flavonoid polyphenols include catechins, flavonones, flavonols, isoflavones, reservatrol, and anthocyanins. Non-flavonoid polyphenols include ellagic acid (found in all types of berries).

Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon) and alpha-linolenic fatty acids (found in plant foods like walnuts) help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.

B-complex vitamins -- like Vitamin B-12 (folate) and vitamin B-6 -- protect against blood clots and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Niacin (vitamin B-3) helps increase HDL "good" cholesterol.

Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.

Published on July 12, 2007


SOURCES: Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, dietitian, Preventive Cardiology Center at The Cleveland Clinic. Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association; owner, Cherry Creek Nutrition, Denver. USDA National Nutrient Database. Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute: "35 Power Foods" and "The Power of Fish: Omega-3 Fatty Acids." USDA: "Frequently Asked Questions About Phytonutrients." WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Feature: "5 Surprisingly Healthy Foods," "'Survivor' Foods: 10 Foods to Take to a Desert Island." WebMD Features: "Wining and Dining the Heart," "Proper Nutrition and Heart Health," "7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing," "Sneak 'Superfoods' Into Your Diet." WebMD Medical News: "Dark Chocolate is Healthy Chocolate." WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Feature: "Easy Add-Ins to Boost Nutrition."

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