Food manufacturers would like you to believe that their cholesterol lowering cereal, or weight loss bar, is your best health food option out there.
But the fact is, there are 12 food groups that can make a real difference in your heart health—and not a single one comes with food dyes or preservatives, or comes packaged in a box.
1. Onions and garlic contain allicin, which helps lower cholesterol levels. Onions also contain quercetin, which is a powerful bioflavonoid that prevents the "bad" LDL cholesterol from clogging your arteries.
2. Spinach, kale and collard greens contain vitamin E and lutein. Lutein helps protect blood vessels, especially those in the eye, and helps prevent macular degeneration. Vitamin E prevents cholesterol from sticking to the inside of your arteries.
3. Yams, cantaloupe and acorn squash contain natural beta-carotene, which helps protect the heart and blood vessels.
4. Cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower contain calcium, vitamin E, potassium and folic acid, along with phytonutrients that help protect against cancer. Calcium helps lower blood pressure; vitamin E and folic acid help prevent atherosclerosis; and potassium helps decrease blood pressure and generally protects the heart.
5. Asparagus contains folic acid, which helps reduce hardening of the arteries.
6. Soy-based foods (tofu, tempeh, miso and other soy products) and sea vegetables (seaweed) contain magnesium and linolenic acid. Magnesium helps protect against cardiac arrhythmia, and linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid necessary for cardiovascular health. Linolenic acid also helps lower cholesterol.
7. Eggs are a readily available source of protein that provide the antioxidants magnesium and sulfur. Eat no more than six eggs per week.
8. The Four Fish: mackerel, sardines, salmon or anchovies (eat once a week). All these fish contain coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), and anchovies and sardines contain DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol). CoQ10 is essential for the production of cellular energy and has been shown to strengthen weak heart muscles. DMAE increases the level of choline in the brain, which enhances memory.
9. Beans (navy, kidney, black, etc.) and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils contain magnesium, fiber and potassium. Magnesium helps lower blood pressure, potassium helps prevent cardiac arrhythmia and fiber helps reduce cholesterol levels.
10. Fresh grapefruit, strawberries and raspberries contain pectin and vitamin C. Pectin helps lower cholesterol and vitamin C helps protect the vascular system. Include cherries, peaches, plums, kiwi and rhubarb which are in the complex-carbohydrate category. Also, choose organic as often as possible, especially with berries which can be laden with pesticides.
11. Oatmeal, which contains heart-healthy essential fatty acids.
12. Olive oil and almond oil are good sources of monounsaturated fats, which promote the formation of good "HDL" cholesterol.
Now it’s your turn: Which of these foods do you enjoy eating?