W hen we see news reports about how to stay healthy, it sometimes feels like we have to cut everything out of our lives. Fat, carbs, and sugars are often demonized in various diets, and it can feel like there’s no way to get “enough” exercise without spending 8 hours at the gym.
What if there were easy, accessible ways to improve your diet, though? What if there was a way to improve your blood circulation and heart health by including new ingredients, rather than excluding?
In honor of American Heart Month, Phoenix ER & Medical Hospital wants to talk about antioxidants, and how important they can be to cardiovascular health. Not all foods have to be “off-limits” when it comes to promoting good health, after all.
Understanding why these power foods are so nutritious can help families everywhere learn how to make the most of their meals.
What Antioxidants Do
The term “antioxidants” is used often, so most people have heard of them before. Usually in reference to some food or drink having a lot of them, antioxidants refer to vital nutrients that help to break down harmful cholesterol in blood vessels. This helps to prevent clogs from forming in the arteries and enables good cholesterol to grow.
With clean blood vessels, your heart will able to more effectively pump blood throughout your body. A healthy heart can power a healthy body, and antioxidants can play an important role in this.
Where to Find Antioxidants
Since antioxidants are such a great asset to cardiovascular health, knowing where to find them is the most important part. When you go grocery shopping, here are five of the most antioxidant-rich ingredients that you can look for:
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and even cranberries are all antioxidant-rich fruits. These tasty little morsels are full of vitamins that will help you feel fresh and energized, but their antioxidant count is uniquely high when compared to other fruits. Try eating some during breakfast, in oatmeal, yogurt, or even some fun-flavored pancakes.
- Dark Leafy Greens
Whether it’s kale, spinach, or another brightly colored lettuce, when the color is dark and vivid, the antioxidants are plentiful. You can eat more of these vibrant greens in salads, or if you prefer your vegetables warm, try mixing them into soups and stews. This will add some extra heart health into some of your favorite comfort foods.
- Beans & Lentils
Otherwise known as legumes, beans and lentils are not just good sources of fiber and protein. They’re also high in antioxidants and can make for a nutritious supplement for many dishes. Darker beans, like kidney beans or green lentils, are usually richer in nutrients. Using them on Meatless Mondays or in your favorite chili recipe can be a good way to boost your dinners.
- Pecans & Walnuts
If you’re in need of a healthy snack, then look no further than pecans and walnuts. These soft tree nuts are not only high in healthy oils but also high in antioxidants. They can make a good addition to your afternoon nibbling, and if you roast them, they can be mixed into salads, breakfasts, and even desserts for a nice touch of extra flavor.
- Dark Chocolate
It might seem unlikely that chocolate is heart healthy, but it can be. Cacao plants are naturally very rich in antioxidants, and they bring that health benefit to chocolate. It is important to pick the right kind of chocolate, though. When you’re shopping for a sweet treat, look for dark chocolate that is 70% cacao or higher. A few bites of this can be a great way to get antioxidants, iron, magnesium, and other important vitamins.
Building a heart-healthy diet can be difficult, but it can be made easier if you know what to look for. Many fruits and vegetables have antioxidants in them that will help you improve your circulation and heart rate. Reaching a healthy diet doesn’t have to be all about deprivation, it can just mean making small adjustments that will grow into bigger changes over time. Start by eating more berries and getting more dark greens and beans in your weekly meal planning, and you might find that a heart healthy lifestyle can be delicious. Getting a treat of dark chocolate will certainly help.
Phoenix ER & Medical Hospital supports every family in our community in their efforts to be more heart-conscious. As American Heart Month comes to a close, we hope that you’ll find new ways to bring antioxidants into your life and improve your cardiovascular wellness.