Color your plate for heart health

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Help prevent heart disease with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Heart disease is a significant issue. It causes one out of every four deaths in American adults1, but the risk factors for heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity — are preventable and controllable.

Your golden ticket to a healthy heart may be in the colors on your plate. Colorful foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can help control your blood pressure and cholesterol. Combine a well-balanced diet, exercise and sufficient sleep, and you’re on your way to a healthy heart.

The Challenge

Brighten your plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • Try two new foods a day.
  • Mix and match colors to create a new meal.
  • Share your favorite color combinations or new foods with your family and friends.

When planning out your grocery list or prepping meals, embrace each of the colors of the rainbow by trying these healthy foods below.

Blue

  • Blueberries. This low-calorie, itty-bitty berry is jam-packed with heart-protective antioxidants (ranked the highest of all fruits), fiber and vitamin C. Foods rich in fiber, such as blueberries, help lower cholesterol levels.

Green

  • Asparagus. Help prevent blood clots with asparagus. Its B-complex vitamins are powerful tools to protect against clots and hardening arteries. This well-balanced vegetable is high in niacin, which helps increase HDL cholesterol — the good kind.
  • Broccoli. The winner for the most nutrients of any vegetable: broccoli! In fact, broccoli is one of the best foods for you. It has more vitamin C than an orange, as much calcium as a glass of milk, and more fiber than a slice of whole-wheat bread. Plus, it has cancer-fighting power. Its florets protect cells from free radical damage and help lower blood pressure.
  • Spinach. This leafy green was made famous for its ability to make muscles super strong. Spinach’s high amounts of nitrate certainly can improve your strength, but its high folate content, magnesium and vitamins A and C will help your heart.

Orange

  • Acorn Squash. Warm up your fall and winter with acorn squash. This fat and cholesterol-free vegetable is high in vitamins A, B-complex, C and E. Its high fiber, magnesium and potassium content helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Brightly colored flesh or skins on fruits and vegetables, like that on the orange-yellow acorn squash, indicate high amounts of beta-carotene (a heart-protective antioxidant).
  • Cantaloupe. Acorn squashes and cantaloupes have similar health benefits because they’re both in the gourd family. This juicy melon is a good source of vitamins B-complex and C as well as vitamin A, an antioxidant that helps build a healthy heart and immune system.
  • Carrots. Look beyond better vision because carrots can help control blood sugar (great for diabetics) and lower cholesterol levels. This crunchy veggie is high in fiber, carotenoids and vitamin A.
  • Oranges. Well-known as good sources of vitamin C, oranges protect your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels — the bad kind. Drink or peel your way for powerful carotenoids, flavonoids, potassium, folate and fiber. Antioxidants in oranges (vitamins C and E) help protect your body from free radical damage, a chain reaction of damage over time that can lead to a host of chronic diseases, including heart disease.
  • Sweet Potatoes. Comfort food for most during the holidays, sweet potatoes are extremely healthy — loaded with beta carotene, potassium, fiber and vitamins A, B-6 and C. Though they're typically topped with marshmallows and brown sugar, try preparing them with healthier substitutes like cinnamon, nutmeg or raisins.

Pink

  • Salmon. Research shows that eating fish with omega-3 fatty acids may lower your risk for heart disease and death.2 Salmon tops the list. Rich in omega-3s, salmon may help reduce the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), slow plaque build-up and lower blood pressure.

Red

  • Red Bell Peppers. With many colors to choose from, red bell pepper is simply a mature green bell pepper. It’s sweeter and milder. One advantage of choosing red: it has eleven times more beta carotene — a heart-protective antioxidant — than a green bell pepper. These spicy fruits — not vegetables — are stuffed with vitamins and nutrients.
  • Tomatoes. Another fruit that’s often mistaken for a vegetable: tomatoes. They’re bursting with all four major carotenoids — most notably lycopene — the antioxidant that can help reduce prostate and pancreatic cancer risks. It also contains potassium, flavonols and vitamins C and E.

Brown

  • Almonds and Walnuts. These nuts provide protein, meaning that you can cut down on meat. They may help lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in your heart’s arteries. Snack on almonds or walnuts, in moderation, as a healthy alternative to sweets or chips. A bonus: their protein and nutritional fat content mean you'll stay full longer.
  • Flaxseed. This tiny seed packs a nutty flavor and a powerful punch. Flaxseed is linked to helping people fight heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and strokes. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fiber. Studies have found that it can lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots.3 Sprinkle the seed on your oatmeal, baked goods and cereal.
  • Oatmeal. One of the best breakfast choices, oatmeal can warm and fill you up. Research shows that oats and oatmeal are excellent ways to lower your cholesterol, keep you regular and help prevent certain cancers. This morning meal can help regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day — a great option for diabetics.

For more challenges, healthy eating articles or ways to improve your well-being, visit GuideStone’s Wellness Hub and join us in prioritizing your personal health.


1Healthline, 2020

2WebMD, 2020

3WebMD, 2020

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