6 Heart-Healthy Foods You Should Eat All Year Long

February is American Heart Month; add these foods to your diet to keep your heart healthy all year long

Light exercise (like brisk walking) for 30 minutes a day five times a week; not smoking; sustaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and eating a healthy diet: these are some of the most important things we can do to help prevent heart disease, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Advice we should all heed seriously, given that heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

In honor of American Heart Month in February and to help shed some light on what a “heart-healthy diet” looks like we asked Dr. Caroline Cederquist, a board-certified weight loss physician with a specialization in nutrition, metabolism, and weight management and author of The MD Factor to share what she considers to be some of the best foods for improving and maintaining a healthy heart for life.

These are her recommendations.

-Heart-Healthy Foods You Should Eat All Year Long-

1. Chicken: Cederquist suggests this as an alternative to red meats. “Lean meats like fish and chicken contain less cholesterol and saturated ‘bad’ fats.

2. Salmon: “Omega-3s are the essential fats from salmon,” Cederquist said. “An article published in a 2010 edition of ‘Current Atherosclerosis Reports’ examined studies of omega-3s and the effects on heart health. The review concluded that oily fish and fish oil supplements appear to help protect against heart disease.”

3. Broccoli: According to Cederquist, research has shown that broccoli can help to promote a strong, healthy heart. “Eating broccoli promotes the production of enzymes that help protect heart blood vessels and reduce the molecules that damage them,” she said.

4. Nuts: “It has been shown that eating nuts may reduce your risk of developing blood clots that cause heart attacks,” Cederquist said. She added that nuts have also been shown to improve the lining of the arteries and that their unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can help to reduce cholesterol levels, too.

5. Spinach: Some research shows that spinach may help to boost heart health. “The Physician’s Health Study examined more than 15,000 men without heart disease for 12 years,” Cederquist explained. “Men who ate at least two-and-a-half servings of spinach each day, cut their chance of developing heart disease by 25 percent.”

6. Legumes: “Legumes are packed with nutrients that can lower cholesterol and blood pressure,” Cederquist said. “They are also a great source for protein and are low in fat.”