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5 Surprising Heart-Healthy Foods

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When you think of heart-healthy foods, oatmeal, salmon, red wine and tomatoes may easily come to mind. Here are five unique heart-healthy foods that you should add to your diet to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

1. Kidney Beans 

Although these red beauties certainly pack fiber and protein, you may not know they are a great source of Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of protein, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Copper and Manganese. Plus they have soluble fiber and are low in saturated fat and sodium. Give soup or salad a nutrient boost, stir in some beans. And if you're serving them out of a can, rinse them first to decrease the sodium intake.

2. Grape Juice

Grape Juice is made with more than 20 Concord grapes and counts as 1 serving (1/2 cup) of fruit, as long as there is no added sugar, color or flavor. More importantly, Concord grapes contain the plant nutrients polyphenols which play a role in supporting heart health. Not only do polyphenols give Concord grapes their vibrant color, these plant nutrients also act as antioxidants and deliver benefits to promote health. But keep in mind not all grape juices are created equal.

Make sure to check the labels! Welch's 100% Grape juice for example uses whole Concord grapes – skin, seeds and all – that are pressed to release polyphenols straight from the fruit. Have a glass of grape juice with your morning breakfast. 

3. Brown Rice

Most of us realize that brown rice is better than the white varieties, but you should also know this: Brown rice is a 100 percent healthful whole grain food. Brown rice and other whole grain foods are widely recommended to consumers by the public health community including the American Heart Association for their protective effects against heart disease and certain cancers. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines recommend "making half of all grain servings whole," or three daily whole grain servings in a standard 2,000-calorie reference diet. Also keep in mind that brown rice has B-complex vitamins, fiber, niacin, magnesium and fiber. Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach) with a bit of protein and you're on track for a heart-healthy lunch.  

4. Tofu

Tofu is a soy protein substitute. It contains an excellent source of amino acids, iron, calcium and other micro-nutrients. It is thought to provide the same sort of protection against cancer and heart disease as soya beans. Soy beans contains phytoestrogens called "isoflavones" – a group of chemicals found in plant foods which are believed to help lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, marinate several hours, then grill or stir-fry.

5. Carrots

Although carrots got a bad wrap in the Atkins diet years, carrots are a heart-healthy food. The nutrients in carrots may provide protection against heart disease and cancer while helping to build strong bones and a healthy nervous system. The high vitamin A content that carrots are know for comes from beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your liver. A serving of carrots (one medium carrot or ½ cup chopped) will provide about:

  • 210% of the average daily recommended amount of vitamin A
  • 10% vitamin K
  • 6% vitamin C
  • 2% calcium

Baby carrots are an easy option for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into kids' meals like muffins or casseroles.

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