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February 19, 2014

5 Delicious Foods for Heart Health

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

By Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.

February is about matters of the heart, romantic and health-wise. You may be under the impression that heart-healthy foods must be bland and boring to benefit your ticker, but some of your favorites are actually good for your heart.

Chocolate:  Your chocolate obsession could be good for your heart. Plant compounds in chocolate, called flavonoids, help to keep blood pressure within normal range, lowering the risk for heart attack.  Unsweetened cocoa powder has the most flavonoids and nearly no calories. Hot cocoa made with Hood milk, cocoa powder and the sweetener of your choice includes heart-healthy flavonoids as well as a serving of dairy.  Or try a chocolate banana smoothie made with 1 medium banana, 1 cup Hood milk, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder and sweetener.

Eggs: For decades, eggs have been demonized for causing heart disease, but no single food can be blamed for a chronic condition.  In addition, eggs supply vitamins and minerals that actually support heart health. Health experts now say that most healthy people can include an egg a day in their balanced diet. People with high total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) - bad cholesterol - should ask their doctor about how many eggs are right for them.  The same goes for people with diabetes. Eggs Florentine Wrap  combines Hood Cottage Cheese, eggs, and spinach on a whole wheat wrap - satisfying, and good for you, too.

Nuts: News flash: A small handful of nuts on a regular basis may lead to a longer life.  A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found a link between eating a 1-ounce serving of nuts and lower death rates from heart disease and other conditions, such as cancer.  Nuts supply fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protective antioxidant nutrients.  Experts say it's OK to have nuts every day. Snack on nuts, top salads with them, and enjoy nuts as part of your morning meal in Creamy Fruit and Nut Oatmeal .

Potatoes: Have you shunned potatoes in the name of weight loss? You may be doing your heart a disservice. Potatoes pack potassium and magnesium, two potent minerals that support heart health.  Potassium counteracts the effects of sodium, which may cause blood pressure to rise.  Magnesium promotes a healthy heart rhythm, among other important functions. This heart-healthy Veggie Stuffed Baked Potato is nearly a meal in itself, and it's ready in minutes.

Coffee: Love your coffee, but feel slightly guilty for having a second or third cup?  No worries.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), research suggests that your coffee habit poses no threat to your heart. (In fact, coffee is a major source of antioxidant nutrients that help protect your blood vessels.) Moderation is key, of course; sipping up to six, eight-ounce cups of coffee daily is OK for many people. Drinking regular coffee is not linked to increased blood pressure in large population studies, but if you have a hard time controlling your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about coffee. Skip the high-priced coffee shop drinks in favor of this Simply Smart Cappuccino  that's good for your heart and your bones.





Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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