ALMONDS When adults ate about an ounce of these nuts a day as part of a healthy diet, their LDL levels dropped 13 to 20 percent—the amount comparable to the reduction that occurs with some medications— according to researchers at the University of Toronto.
"All nuts are nutritious, but almonds are particularly heart-healthy because they have the most vitamin E. This antioxidant protects cells against the kind of damage that can lead to atherosclerosis," says Moores. They're also a good source of calcium. If almonds are a little too blah for you, toast them in a shallow baking pan at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes to bring out their flavor.
Beat high blood sugar
About 24 million women have fasting blood sugar (glucose) levels high enough to qualify them as prediabetic, and another 10 million have type 2 diabetes—and many of them don't know it. "Type 2 diabetes is a powerful risk factor for heart disease, particularly in women," says Stein. "It can damage the nerves and blood vessels that lead to the heart and quadruple your chances of having a heart attack." To keep your blood sugar levels in check, add these foods to your diet.
BARLEY It's the grain least likely to produce spikes in your blood sugar; in fact, a study from the Creighton University School of Medicine found barley was better than much-touted oats at keeping glucose levels under control. The reason may be that the grain has high levels of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is digested very slowly and helps lower cholesterol levels. (Hulled barley has more fiber than pearl barley, but it takes longer to cook. Either one makes a smart addition to your diet.) Substitute barley flour for about half the all-purpose type called for in your muffin and quick-bread recipes. You can also add barley to soups or serve it as a side dish with fish, meat, or poultry in place of rice or potatoes.