SALT LAKE CITY — Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, eat fruits and vegetables and maintain a healthy weight. In a nutshell, those are the steps to keeping your heart healthy. But there are also more specific and tasty ways to maintain a healthy ticker.
Regularly indulging in some of nature’s sweet treats can help keep cholesterol and blood pressure in-check. Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are a good source of Vitamin C, while blueberries and raspberries are also excellent sources of fiber. Ellagic acid, a polyphenol found in blueberries, can increase HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Wash berries once you get them home, seal them in a plastic bag and place in the fridge to keep them fresh longer and ready-to-use.
Serving Suggestion: About 1 cup
Eat a handful for a snack.
Top your cereal, yogurt or salads with these superfoods.
Blend a cup of frozen berries into a delicious smoothie. Add a handful of dark greens and a cup of orange juice for additional nutrients.
For a healthy midday snack at work, keep packages of dried or freeze-dried berries in your desk drawer and eat a handful to satiate that sugar craving.
Mix dried berries in with some nuts for a healthy trail mix that is extra good for your heart. Combine one part raw nuts (roast them in the oven for 7-10 minutes at 350 degrees if you prefer), to one part dried fruit together. Add a modest handful of dark chocolate, toss in a dash of salt and put into an airtight container.
# Dark Chocolate
Whoever discovered dark chocolate was good for you: bless you.
By choosing a plain dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content, eaters of this delicious treat consume resveratrol and flavonoids, which work together as antioxidants that keep free radicals under control, decrease inflammation and repair damage, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Serving Suggestion: 1 ounce a few times a week
Break off a piece from a bar and eat it plain.
Chop some up and add it to a homemade trail mix of nuts and dried berries.
Melt it into milk for a homemade mug of hot cocoa. Add some cinnamon and nutmeg if you want some additional flavors and spices.
Pull out that old air popper and make yourself a polyphenol-filled whole-grain snack. Polyphenols are another antioxidant that can help overall health. Whole grains have long been linked to increased cardiovascular health.
Serving Suggestion: 1 cup popped corn
Try a healthier version of your movie theater popcorn by topping popped corn with coconut oil or olive oil and dash of salt.
Or, warm up some honey or maple syrup, mix in cinnamon and toss over popcorn for a sweet treat.
Loaded with fiber, potassium, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin C, bananas are abundant with nutrients. Potassium helps build muscle, balance acid and water in blood and tissue, as well as break down amino acids and carbohydrates.
Serving Suggestion: 1 banana
Peel and munch.
Make frozen yogurt for a cool treat by peeling your very ripe banana, cutting it in thirds, wrapping it in plastic wrap and putting it in the freezer. Once frozen through, place the chunks in a food processor and blend smooth. The bananas turn into a creamy, smooth frozen-yogurt-like dessert without sugar or added fats and preservatives.
For another frozen treat, try dipping a frozen banana in vanilla yogurt and into granola, nuts or dark chocolate chips.
Snack on dried banana chips plain or in a mix of some kind.
Top a salad, cereal or yogurt with ripe, diced bananas.
Another potassium-filled fruit (about twice the amount of bananas), avocados provide healthy fat and calorie intake. Also filled with fiber, Vitamin E, B vitamins and folic acids, the fruit helps the body absorb three to five times more antioxidants, according to one study.
Serving Suggestion: About 1 cup
Slice it and top with salt and pepper.
Cube it and toss into a salad.
For a twist on the classic Caprese salad, slice up some tomatoes and avocado, drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic, top with salt and pepper. Serve it with some cheese or bread for a slightly heartier salad.
Mash it into guacamole, mixing cumin, chili powder, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper into it. Serve it with some corn chips.
Top your tacos, burritos or other Mexican fare with it, of course.