Turn Back Time

10 Foods That Make Your Heart Younger

Three out of four Americans have a “heart age” that’s older than their own.

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10 Foods That Make Your Heart Younger

Three out of four Americans have a “heart age” that’s older than their own.

In fact, three out of four Americans have a “heart age” that’s older than their own, according to scientists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC). After looking at men and women in every state, and estimating their heart age based on risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and diabetes, they determined that we’re a nation of barely-ticking time bombs.

But there are easy ways to separate yourself from the pack and turn back the clock on your heart. In fact, according to a recent study at Emory University, more than 50 percent of all heart attack deaths can be prevented with a handful of dietary changes. So take your heart health into your own hands. The editors of Eat This, Not That! have identified the absolute best foods to dramatically turn back the clock on your heart, while dropping pounds and protecting yourself from diabetes, as well. And on top of adding these foods to your diet, you might as well start removing these 30 Worst Foods For Your Heart while you’re at it.

1

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate

Great news, chocoholics: Dozens of studies show that people who consume cocoa—as a hot drink or eaten as dark chocolate—are in much better cardiovascular shape than those who don’t. One nine-year study in the journal Circulation Heart Failure found women who ate one to two servings of high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure than those who said no to the cocoa. And a second long-term study found that men who ate the most chocolate–about 1/3 of a cup of dark chocolate chips per week–had a 17 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to those who didn’t consume chocolate. Researchers attribute cocoa’s health benefits to polyphenols and flavanols, anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the heart.

Eat This, Not That! Approved:

The most healthful dark chocolate contains 74 percent or more cocoa solids, but if you’re serious about a healthier heart, don’t buy anything under 60 percent cacao. Eat This, Not That! recommends Lindt’s 85% Cocoa Excellence bar. The chocolate in this bar isn’t alkalized–a process that strips out the bitterness at the cost of the cocoa’s natural, healthy compounds–and you can enjoy four indulgent squares for just 230 calories and 5 grams of sugar. Or try the sweets we included on our list of Eat This, Not That!-approved 10 Best-Ever Snacks for Weight Loss!

2

Edamame

edamame best foods for your heart

Don’t just eat these at the sushi joint! The soybean pods are a great anytime snack because they’re an excellent source of magnesium, folate and potassium. These nutrients can help lower blood pressure and support heart health, reducing your risk for heart disease. Fiber protects the heart by boosting the body’s ability to produce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors, which act like bouncers, pulling “bad” cholesterol out of the blood. And beans are an excellent source. Researchers at the University of Leeds analyzed a number of studies and found that risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for every 7 grams of fiber consumed.

Eat This, Not That! Recommended:

We like Seapoint Farms Wasabi Dry Roasted Edamame. Besides having a satisfyingly crunchy texture and kick of heat, they pack 11 grams of soy protein and five grams of belly-filling fiber in each 100-calorie serving.

3

Rooibos Tea

rooibos tea best foods for your heart

A recent study at Penn State found that people who react badly to stressful situations have increased levels of inflammation in their bodies—and inflammation is directly tied to obesity, as well as diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. When anxiety rides high, you’re also at the mercy of stress hormones such as cortisol—known as “the belly fat hormone” for its ability to pull lipids from the bloodstream and store them in our fat cells. What makes rooibos tea particularly good for soothing your mind is the unique flavanoid called Aspalathin. Research shows this compound can help keep your heart healthy by reducing stress hormones that trigger hunger and fat storage.

Drink This, Not That! Tip:

Learn how drinking a cup of rooibos at 9pm could help you melt fat faster—and finally get a night of calming, deep sleep—in the revolutionary new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat Belly Tea Cleanse!

4

Tomatoes

tomatoes best food for your heart

Americans eat more tomatoes and tomato products than any other non-starchy “vegetable.” And that’s good news, researchers say, because tomatoes are particularly rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that, unlike most nutrients in fresh produce, increases after cooking and processing. Dozens of studies suggest a relationship between regular intake of lycopene-rich tomatoes and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, skin damage and certain cancers. Researchers even found a concentrated “tomato pill” improved the widening of the blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease by over 53 percent compared to a placebo.

Eat This, Not That! Secret:

Most of the disease-fighting polyphenols in tomatoes occur in the skin, so grape and cherry tomatoes are considerably healthier than the larger beefsteak kind.

5

Walnuts

walnuts best foods for your heart

Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of giving us a hint: Heart-shaped walnuts are brimming in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease—an umbrella term that refers to a number of deadly complications (including heart attack and stroke) that amount for about 600,000 deaths in the United States per year. The most comprehensive review of clinical trials on nut consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease showed consuming just one ounce of walnuts five or more times a week—about a handful every day—can slash heart disease risk by nearly 40 percent!

Eat This, Not That! Secret:

A recent study that analyzed the health benefits of different parts of the walnut—the skin, the “meat” and the oil—found most of the heart-healthy benefits come from the oil. You can release walnuts’ volatile oils by roasting them in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. And give bottled walnut oil a try—a finishing oil that’s delicious in mixed into salad dressings or drizzled (with a teaspoon!) on pasta dishes. Discover more exclusive slim-down secrets in this special Eat This, Not That! report: 7 Best Foods for Rapid Weight Loss.

6

Flaxseeds

flaxseeds

A mere tablespoon of these ultra-powerful seeds serves up nearly three grams of belly-filling fiber for just 55 calories. We like that ratio. Not to mention, flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation, ward off mood swings and help prevent heart disease and diabetes. A diet of heart-healthy fats, like those found in flax seeds, raises good HDL cholesterol levels.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Flaxseeds make a subtle, nutty addition to smoothies, salad dressings and yogurt. But you’ll need ground flaxseeds in order to get all the heart benefits; the solid seeds aren’t easily digested.

7

Sprouted Garlic

sprouted garlic

“Sprouted” garlic—old garlic bulbs with bright green shoots emerging from the cloves—usually ends up in the garbage. But scientists report that this type of garlic has even more heart-healthy antioxidant activity than the fresh stuff. Aged garlic extract, also known as kyolic garlic or A.G.E. is a popular supplement, because it’s odorless (let the kissing commence!). A study found that participants who took four pills a day saw a reduction in plaque buildup in the arteries.

Eat This, Not That! Recommended:

Try Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract—4 ml a day can boost your circulation, and they’re odor free.

8

Yogurt

yogurt

A study of more than 2,000 adults revealed that those who consume just 2 percent of their total daily calories from yogurt—that would be like eating one six-ounce cup of yogurt every three days—have a 31 percent lower incidence of hypertension than those who eat the creamy stuff less often, according to the American Heart Association. And another study found that each weekly serving of yogurt was associated with a 6 percent reduction in one’s risk of hypertension. It goes back to those two essential nutrients, vitamin D and calcium. And some yogurts also carry a nice dose of potassium, a proven blood-pressure reducer. An 8-ounce container of Stonyfield’s Organic Smooth & Creamy yogurt, for example, contains up to 11 percent of the day’s recommended intake, more than you’d get from a small banana.

Eat This, Not That! Approved:

Make sure your yogurt has less than 20 grams of sugar per serving, or you’re doing more harm than good. One of these 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss should do the trick.

9

Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes

The king of slow carbs (meaning they’re digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer), sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and nutrients and can help you burn fat. The magic ingredient here are carotenoids, antioxidants which stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which prevents calories from being converted into fat. That means they reduce your risk of diabetes, one of the greatest threats to your heart. And their high vitamin profile (including A, C and B6) give you more energy to burn at the gym.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Dash sweet potatoes with pepper to power up the nutrients, and rebalance your diet, flatten your tummy and reduce bloat with these other essential 7 Best Food Combos for Quick Weight Loss!

10

Boiled Peanuts

boiled peanuts

Apparently they’re on to something in the south. This southern snack has 5 times as much resveratrol—the heart-healthy phytonutrient found in red wine—than dry-roasted, oil-roasted, or raw peanuts. Boiled peanuts are boiled in the shell, and the resveratrol is found in that bitter red papery skin that we normally toss when we eat raw peanuts. Boiled peanuts also have fewer calories and less fat than raw or dry roasted peanuts. “Nuts are a great source of fiber and healthy fat, which can help fight inflammation in the body and also promote digestion,” adds Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.

Eat This, Not That! Secret:

If you’re a wine drinker, consider red wine from Spain, which has higher resveratrol levels than wine from other regions. (California wines come in second.)