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The Best Foods For Your Heart, According To A Cardiologist

As you may have heard, unfortunately most of the best foods on earth can cause cardiovascular disease. So what are you supposed to eat all day?

Your basic fruits and vegetables are gimmes — eat lots of them — but Dr. Seth Martin, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, says there are a few other staples to add to your diet for a healthy heart.

Beans & lentils

Beans and lentils are fiber superstars, which may not be as cool as Mick Jagger, but will help keep your heart working as long as his has. “In general, people in the U.S. have too little fiber in their diet,” Dr. Martin points out. “So I advise patients to try to incorporate more of it into their meals.” Other smart folks agree with Dr. Martin; scientists haveconsistently found fiber to be associated with lower LDL cholesterol, and beans in particular are linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Whole grains

Carbohydrates have been getting some glares lately, and Paleo proponents may not agree with this assessment, but whole grains are still an important part of what you should be eating. A whole grain is a cereal like wheat, rice, or barley whose bran (the outside of a grain kernel) hasn’t been removed.

And white bread with tiny brown specks of wheat in it doesn’t qualify; it’s the 100% whole grain grain stuff that gets you the fiber and B vitamins your heart needs. We’ve covered fiber, but B vitamins are responsible for ensuring that homocysteine (associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease) doesn’t accumulate.“Whole grains are a big thing, whether they’re coming in the form of bread or cereal, rice or pasta,” says Dr. Martin.

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Nuts

Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts — can you name every nut? It really doesn’t matter too much which kind you prefer, since they’re all little powerhouses of minerals, protein, and healthy fats. It turns out that they’re also pretty good at reducing cholesterol, so Dr. Martin suggests eating them whenever you can: on your cereal, with your yogurt, or as a snack on their own.

Extra-virgin olive oil

If you’ve tried the extra-virgin olive oil from Spain, Italy, or Greece, it’s hard to believe this stuff is healthy. It tastes so damn good you could guzzle it from the bottle. But alas: “It’s not like you can just drink a bunch of olive oil and [become] healthy,” Dr. Martin warns, putting the kibosh on a potential “Gallon Olive Oil Challenge.”

Olive oil has lots of unsaturated fat, which helps keep your cholesterol levels low, especially compared with butter, or worse, margarine. This is the place to get fancy: buying a nice bottle of extra-virgin olive oil is like buying a bottle of nice scotch, instantly transforming you into a mature, sophisticated adult.

Super spices: garlic, turmeric, and ginger

When a dish needs a little something, we usually reach for the salt. But there are so many different, flavorful herbs and spices you can add to your food that are way healthier. When you use a pinch of something else, the first thing you’re doing is avoiding that blood-pressure-raising cardiovascular health enemy. As a bonus, garlic, turmeric, and ginger have a variety of heart-promoting and anti-inflammatory effects.

Fish

The first good thing about eating fish is that it’s going to be the protein source in your meal — in other word, you probably don’t have the stomach capacity to down a dozen wings with your salmon filet at every meal (or DO you?). Plus, fish, with its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, is related to a reduced risk of dying of heart disease. And dying is bad.

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