Weeknight cooking can quickly start to feel like a chore after a long day of family errands and work. Keeping the right staples on hand makes whipping up a heart-healthy meal for you and your family simple and painless. To be sure you’re never left wondering “What’s for dinner?,” nutritionist and American Heart Association volunteer Maribet Rivera-Brut suggests having on hand these 10 healthy foods:
1. Leafy Greens
Kale, spinach, and watercress are tasty dark greens that are easy to find and can be used in different ways for different recipes. Maribet explains that leafy greens are also a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which contribute to heart health.
2. Whole-Wheat Products
For pasta, breads and crackers, consider making the switch to whole wheat, which provides more fiber than white flour and is more filling. “Make sure it’s 100 percent whole wheat, so you can enjoy the full benefits of the fiber and antioxidants,” Maribet says.
3. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
A tasty and heart-healthy alternative to butter, this oil is a common, healthy-fat used around the world, Maribet explains. “[Olive oil] promotes healthy cholesterol levels, protecting you from a heart attack or stroke.”
This versatile vegetable — or if you consider it a fruit — is a great addition to any shopping list. Not only can you add them to most dishes (think salads, pastas, eggs and sandwiches), tomatoes are high in antioxidants.
Heart-healthy fish, like salmon and tuna, are high in Omega-3s, which have consistently been proven to benefit the heart, Maribet said. When you can, choose wild caught fish over farmed or frozen to be sure you are getting the most health benefits.
Great for snacking and eating on-the-go, salads, and a host of other things, heart-healthy nuts, like almonds and walnuts are a must-have staple for your kitchen cabinet. “Almond and walnuts have been proven to lower the levels of total cholesterol and increase good cholesterol,” Maribet says. She recommends being mindful of your portion size when snacking on these savory treats — stick to one-fourth of a cup, which is about 180 calories.
This tiny fruit packs big benefits. High in antioxidants, grapes also have phytochemicals, which provide anti-inflammatory effects that help the cardiovascular system, explains Maribet. Serve them fresh on salads, by themselves or with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt.
Appealing to the whole family, berries are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Plan to buy them seasonally to ensure they are at peak flavor.
Canned or dried, beans are high in fiber, fat free, and rich in calcium, iron and protein, Maribet explains. Use this great, versatile ingredient to make everything from hummus to chili.
This super food is a great source of protein, which is also rich in fiber. This grain is perfect on top of salads, mixed with bean and tofu, or mixed with vegetables.
Learn more ways to live healthy on Go Red.