Nutrition experts agree there are a number of foods (and their food groups) which should be a regular part of a heart-healthy diet. Five of those foods and their beneficial properties are listed below:

Salmon ñ Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are believed to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of triglycerides (blood fats) which have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Omega-3s also help prevent blood clots. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings (between 3 oz. and 6 oz.) at least twice a week.

Blueberries ñ Although there is some debate as to the actual nutritional benefits attributable to blueberries, many experts believe them to be a "superfood" because they are high in antioxidants which help to reduce the buildup of LDL ("bad") cholesterol which has been linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Blueberries also rank very high in antioxidant activity which helps neutralize free radicals (the byproducts of metabolism) that can lead to cancer and age-related diseases. The recommended serving is one cup per day.

Soy protein ñ Found in soybeans, soy nuts, soy milk, soy flour, energy bars, fortified cereals, tempeh, and tofu, soy protein is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is a good alternative to red meat since it is lower in fat and higher in fiber than many meats. Soy protein has been found to lower cholesterol when it is part of a low-fat diet. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least one ounce of soy protein every day.

Oatmeal ñ A relatively low-calorie food that is high in fiber, oatmeal helps lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full between meals so you may be less likely to eat unhealthy snacks. Oatmeal and other whole grains like barley, rye, whole wheat, millet, quinoa, and brown and wild rice also help reduce the risk of diabetes. The American Dietetic Association recommends between 21 and 38 grams of whole grains each day depending on age and sex.

Spinach ñ Along with kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, and collard greens, spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains high amounts of folate which helps reduce the amount of the amino acid homocysteine (a possible risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease) in the blood. It is recommended that you eat a cup a day of a dark green, leafy vegetable.

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