It’s the hardest working muscle in your body – and it never gets a day off. So why not show your heart a little extra love?
These fruits are not only super sweet but somehow have health benefits even better than their taste – making them the closest thing your heart will get to some much needed self-care.
Throughout the course of the average human life, the heart beats 2.5 billion times, pumping millions of gallons worth of blood through every artery, vain and capillary. Whew!
For all its valiance, though, the heart remains vulnerable – and not just in a Hallmark Christmas movie kind of way.
Heart disease has long been the number one killer of men and women of almost every race in the United States, claiming more than 600,000 lives annually on average.
A combination of stressful lifestyles and subpar foods is often the culprit, leading to increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and, ultimately and unfortunately, heart attack.
But the risks don’t have to be permanent part of our lives! A heart-healthy diet (and lifestyle!) can go a long way toward reducing cardiovascular disease – including filling our snack packs with more of these American Heart Association-approved treats.
Berries of all sorts are fantastic heart-healthy foods, including raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.
The little bites of bliss pack a crazy healthy punch, full of antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against the type of internal stress and inflammation that are risk factors for heart disease. Berries are also big carriers of fiber, which helps keep cholesterol levels low.
And while all berries are good for your ticker, blueberries are particularly powerful tools to fight cardiovascular disease, thanks to compounds that help care for the cells lining our blood vessels, leading to less blood clots, lower cholesterol, better blood pressure and more elastic arteries.
So you can really eat these treats to your heart’s content!
It’s omega-3 fatty acids that put the “good” in the good fat avocados are famous for – and heart health is where they’re at their best.
These good fats are the enemy of “bad” cholesterol (AKA LDL cholesterol), with omega-3 fatty acids going to work to reduce cholesterol levels and also being shown in some studies to help fight metabolic syndrome – a cluster of unfortunate conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and high cholesterol levels, which greatly increases the chance of cardiovascular disease.
But avocados aren’t just made of omega-3s. The prolific produce is also a big provider of potassium, which is hugely beneficial to heart health.
Bring on the avocado toast!
That’s right, tomatoes are technically a fruit! But even more amazingly, these sneaky fruits are incredible heart-healthy foods.
A big part of tomatoes’ hearty appeal is their abundance of lycopene, a naturally-occurring pigment that carries a huge amount of antioxidant properties.
Aside from helping rid the body of free radicals – and, therefore, helping fight against the inflammation and oxidative damage that can lead to heart disease – some studies show a direct link between the amount of lycopene in the blood and the risk of heart disease. (Less lycopene correlated to a greater likelihood of a cardiac event.)
But tomatoes have also been shown to help increase the amount of “good” cholesterol (AKA HDL cholesterol) in the body, which actually works to help remove bad cholesterol. Talk about helping yourself out!
They say one a day keeps the doctor away – and for good reason!
Apples are a particularly good fruit to help lower cholesterol, thanks to their high volumes of soluble fiber. And the same dense digestive stuff can help with keeping blood pressure low.
Plus, the fruits are also a good source of polyphenols – a group of heart-healthy micronutrients packed with antioxidants that help ward off cardiovascular disease by lowering blood sugar levels and preventing blood clots.
No wonder they’re the apple of our eye.
We told you that potassium is an essential aspect of heart health – and bananas are practically known for packing the stuff.
According to the American Heart Association, high-potassium foods can help lower blood pressure, which is a crucial aspect of cardiovascular health, and particularly important for avoiding heart disease.
Bananas are also essentially fat- and cholesterol-free, have very little sodium, but do include a healthy serving of vitamins C and B6, which aren’t just good for our hearts, but keeping our overall body healthy and happy.
Remember the antioxidant anthocyanins that we loved so much about berries? Guess what – cherries are chock full of the stuff, too!
And thankfully, the compound does just as good of a job supplying anti-inflammatory and stress-busting properties when wrapped inside a cherry’s tart deliciousness.
The popular stone fruits are also big sources of vitamin C and the micronutrient polyphenols, which has been linked to help preventing heart disease.
Kiwis may be small, but when it comes to heart-healthy foods, they sure are mighty.
The fuzzy fruits are an excellent source of all-important potassium, helping keep blood pressure levels in check, but they also deliver plenty of magnesium, copper, and phosphorus, which are also good for our hearts.
Eating their skin can be an especially helpful way to get more fiber – and raise the levels of HDL cholesterol in our bodies.
But perhaps kiwis’ biggest claim to heart health fame is their ability to help reduce blood triglyceride levels. Made up of unused calories, blood triglycerides represent excess fat in the bloodstream – which can lead to cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
So make sure to keep some of these small, delicious fruits handy. (We know – it’s a tough thing to ask!)
You may have heard that red wine is good for the heart. (In more ways than one!) But going with grapes lets you go straight to the source.
The scrumptious fruits are great sources of resveratrol, a compound with antioxidant properties that has been linked to lowering blood sugar and reducing hypertension in some patients.
Plus a new study shows that grapes may also help lower “bad” cholesterol levels and help keep blood pressure levels in check.
So if you really want to prove to your valentine that their heart is safe in your hands, maybe skip the red roses and go for the fruit bouquet!
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