Summer’s Bounty: Top 5 Healthy Foods for Your Heart

June 24, 2014  19:32

Summer is an excellent time to renew your resolution for healthy eating. And a recent blood pressure study sweetens the deal, lending support for putting watermelon among top choices for heart-healthy foods. Celebrate the bounty of summer with watermelon and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Combined in healthy menus, summertime foods can help give you more than just one season of heart health.

Dietitians Julia Zumpano and Kate Patton, both of Cleveland Clinic’s Section of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation, put together some tips with the list of their five summertime heart-healthy food favorites:

1. Avocados

A mashed avocado provides a healthy alternative to mayonnaise or butter. A 1/4-cup serving of pureed avocado provides 6 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and 90 calories.

2. Tomatoes

Enjoy summer’s kaleidoscopic tomato harvest. Most tomatoes are a good source of lycopene (an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and also may help lower bad cholesterol).

3. Salmon

Wild-caught salmon is a heart-healthy choice that’s perfect for summertime grilling. Eating 4 ounces of wild-caught salmon twice weekly provides you with an adequate intake of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower risk of sudden cardiac death, reduce blood clot formation, inhibit growth of plaque along artery walls and decrease triglycerides.

Cooking tips:

Lightly oil or spray the grill and keep the skin on fillets to prevent the salmon from sticking. Grill over medium heat.

4. Dark leafy greens

These nutritional powerhouses can go way beyond salads. Choose from red or green leaf lettuce, romaine, kale, collards, turnip greens, Swiss chard, spinach and red or green cabbage. Each selection is nutrient-dense and full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. An added plus: They are all low in calories. (One cup of raw spinach has only 7 calories. One cup of raw, shredded red cabbage has 22 calories.)

Serving tips:

You can eat greens raw or cooked, added to cold pasta or bean salads.

5. Fresh fruit

Seasonal, local fresh fruit gives you the most nutrient-rich bang for your buck. Farmers markets sell seasonal local fruit – melons, berries, peaches, pears, plums, cherries – at the peak of its flavor and nutrients. Fruit-rich diets can help lower your blood pressure and the water in fresh fruits keeps you hydrated on hot summer days.

Watermelon gets a little sweeter

Long a summertime favorite, watermelon is another good source of lycopene and has only 46 calories per cup.

A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension and conducted by Florida State University says that specific nutrients in watermelon also may help reduce blood pressure.

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