(BPT) - What's the biggest threat to our health? It isn't cancer or even accidents, but heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, one in four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease, which includes heart attack and stroke. This statistic is scary, but the good news is, there is something powerful we can do to prevent us from becoming a victim to this disease.
Even if you are one of the 47 percent of Americans living with a major risk factor, there are preventive measures you can take for a healthier heart, says registered dietitian nutritionist, Dawn Jackson Blatner. All you have to do is embrace some simple lifestyle changes starting with your diet.
"Food is quite literally one of the best medicines out there when it comes to improving our health," says Blatner. "Studies show us repeatedly that a balanced diet including heart-healthy unsaturated fats, along with multiple servings of fruit and vegetables can give you additional protection against heart attack and stroke."
Here are five of Blatner's go-to foods you can easily incorporate into your diet for a daily dose of heart-healthy compounds.
1. Fish: Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of irregular heartbeat and help decrease plaque buildup in the arteries. If fish isn't already in your meal rotation, it's time to start. Preparation and cooking time for fish entrees is much shorter than that of chicken, beef and pork, making it a perfect weeknight meal.
2. Greens: Leafy greens contain nitrates, healthy compounds that not only reduce the risk of heart attack, but can boost survival rates after a heart attack. Plus, spinach, kale and other dark green vegetables have carotenoids, which work to keep blood vessels healthy. So aim to have at least one cup of leafy greens each day, such as scrambled in your morning eggs, a green juice as a snack or a leafy salad with lunch or dinner.
3. Nuts: They contain protein, fiber and healthy fat, which work together to keep us feeling full and satisfied. Though high in fat, studies show people who consume nuts on a daily basis are leaner than those who don't, and staying lean is, of course, heart-healthy. So go ahead and keep almonds, walnuts or pistachios on hand for snacking, and choose those that are minimally processed, avoiding candied or highly salted nuts.
4. Dark chocolate: Good news: Eating dark chocolate every day can reduce heart attack and stroke for high-risk patients. The magic compound here is flavonoids, which are beneficial for blood pressure and clotting while also reducing inflammation. If you're on-board with making chocolate your after dinner indulgence, opt for brands with 60-70 percent cocoa and that don't contain milk fat in the ingredient list.
5. Eggs: Contrary to earlier belief, eating one egg a day has no negative effect on coronary health and can actually reduce the risk of stroke by 12 percent, according to a recent review of 30 years' worth of scientific study cited on nutraingredients.com. But all eggs are not created equal. Eggland's Best eggs, for example, offer the benefit of 25 percent less saturated fat, five times more Vitamin D, more than twice the omega-3s and three times more Vitamin B12 than ordinary eggs. Eggland's Best's superior nutritional profile is due to its proprietary, all-vegetarian diet. So get cracking and experiment with recipes featuring poached, baked and even hard-boiled Eggland's Best eggs to serve up heart-healthy meals.
Very Vegetable Frittata
4 Eggland's Best Eggs (large)
1/3 cup Eggland's Best Liquid Egg Whites
1 cup non-fat milk
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup halved cherry or pear tomatoes
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
arugula, for serving (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk and Dijon mustard; set aside.
In a 10 to 12-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, spray with cooking spray and heat to medium-high.
Saute onion until softened - about 2 minutes.
Add the mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini to the skillet. Saute until slightly softened - another 3 to 4 minutes.
Whisk the egg mixture again, then pour over the vegetables.
Sprinkle tomatoes and feta cheese on top.
Place a lid on the skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook until the bottom and sides of the frittata are firm - 8 to 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven broiler.
Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the frittata is cooked through (no longer jiggly) and slightly browned on top - about 5 minutes (watch closely).
Cut into 4 wedges and serve immediately, over a handful of arugula, if desired.
- Recipe courtesy of Eggland's Best.