For a heart healthy diet and slimmer waist, include whole grains, fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, healthy fish and certain oils in your grocery basket.
Here are more specific nutrition tips:
Healthy whole grains: breads and cereals
Healthy whole grains provide significant amounts of insoluble fiber, which helps control weight by filling you up, and some soluble fiber, which reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Additionally, studies have found that when dieters ate four to five servings of healthy whole grains daily, they reduced their levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) by 38 percent compared with those who ate only refined grains. Consistently high levels of CRP may contribute to the hardening of arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Researchers say the antioxidants in healthy whole grains may help lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) levels by decreasing damage to your cells, tissues, and organs.
Healthy fruit facts
A heart healthy diet should include apples, pears, citrus and berries, which are packed with fiber and phytochemicals, which show promise in fighting heart disease.
Lycopene, found in heart healthy foods like tomatoes, watermelon and pink/red grapefruit, helps lower cardiovascular-disease risk. Watermelon also raises levels of arginine, an amino acid shown to improve blood-vessel function in the body.
Dark, leafy greens
Heart healthy foods like arugula and spinach contain folate, which helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that increases heart-disease risk.
Omega 3 benefits of nuts
Peanuts are a good source of soluble fiber. Walnuts boast omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglyceride levels.
Heart healthy foods like almonds, cashews and macadamias are full of monounsaturated fats, which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Healthy fish to eat
Heart healthy fish include Salmon and other cold-water fatty fish like sardines, mackerel and herring, which are brimming with omega 3 benefits. An added advantage of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids: they can help maintain bone health by reducing the activity of osteoclasts, cells that break down bones, according to a Pennsylvania State University study.
Healthy cooking oils
A heart healthy diet should include monounsaturated fats, from foods like olives, olive oil, and seed and nut oils, which can lower risk by cutting blood-cholesterol levels. One tablespoon of olive oil provides 8 percent of the RDA for vitamin E -- a powerful antioxidant that prevents LDL cholesterol oxidation and raises HDL. Plus, unlike polyunsaturated fats, the monounsaturated kind are more resistant to oxidation, a process that leads to cell and tissue damage. (Saturated fat, found in red meat, butter and full-fat cheese, raises artery-jamming cholesterol, so avoid or limit these foods.)