Fit & Happy: 8 Healthy Delicious Foods for a Fit & Happy Heart!

Meredith Nixon - Meredith Nixon

  A health body is the combination of both fitness and nutrition. Our diet is not only a crucial factor in our weight but also our overall health, especially our heart’s health.  Exercise helps us to focus on the outside of our physique and diet allows us to focus on what’s going on inside our bodies. The reality is that we all have plaque in our arteries. In fact, studies show that one in four adults suffer from cardiovascular disease (CVD). Alarming as this statistic is, the good news is that we have the ability to decrease our risk by combining fitness and diet, with these 8 heart healthy, waistline friendly foods.

1. Fatty Fish: Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, Halibut, Tuna Steak, Albacore Tuna
Fatty fish is FULL of omega-3 fatty acids which decrease both triglyceride levels and blood pressure. In addition, eating fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids 1-2 times per week may reduce the risk of coronary death. 

2. Tea: Green, Black, White or Oolong
Loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, tea consumption has been associated with a decrease in heart disease. These polyphenols prevent our bad cholesterol (LDL) from oxidation which prevents the growth of things that will clog our arteries. The other bonus - tea is naturally calorie-free. This one is a no-brainer considering the many varieties available.

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3. Legumes: Peas, Beans & Lentils
Low in fat and rich in the B vitamin folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, fiber, and protein, you can't go wrong by adding legumes to your diet! Eating legumes can significantly help with the prevention of CVD.

4. Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy: Yogurt, Milk, Cheese, Dairy-Based Protein Shakes
A diet low in fat and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can help reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

5. Leafy Greens: Full of Fiber
Leafy greens contain fiber, magnesium, potassium, calcium and other important nutrients. All which have been associated with decreased levels of both plaque build-up and the risk of heart attack. Eat at least 3 cups of dark green vegetables weekly. Include leafy greens such as spinach, arugula and romaine lettuce.

6. Oranges/Bell Peppers: High in Vitamin C, Folate, Antioxidants, Potassium & Fiber
With about 300 mg of potassium in each orange, they will help you meet the daily recommended 4,700 mg of potassium and help curb your cravings for sweets. Low levels of potassium are associated with high blood pressure.  Be sure to include plenty of potassium- rich fruits and vegetables into one's daily diet.

7. Whole Grains: Rich in Fiber
Whole grain consumption can lower blood cholesterol and prevention and management of CVD. Remember to look for "whole grain" or "whole wheat". Try a variety of grains including: oats, oat bran, quinoa, Ezekiel bread and brown rice.

8. Berries: Blueberries, Black Currants, Raspberries, and Strawberries
Pick a berry and eat it, any berry. Eating berries may help increase HDL levels and reduce blood pressure. Berries are loaded with more antioxidants than many other fruits and vegetables. Eating antioxidants vs. taking them in a pill is preferable and there are few foods where you'll get as much bang for your buck as you will with berries.

I’m sure by now you’re seeing a common thread in all of my columns. The best way to stay Fit & Happy is by combining both fitness and diet. Hit the gym to help strengthen your heart, increase your lean body mass and for your overall mental and physical well-being.  Help to keep your heart healthy and your waistline trim by eating properly outside of the gym.

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Meredith Nixon is a fitness enthusiast with a passion for motivating and inspiring others.

She uses her personal experiences from achieving her own weight loss goals to understand her clients and motivate them to love themselves and to be happy, healthy and fit. She teaches people how to live a healthy lifestyle and keep weight off forever with life changing results both inside and out.

Since 2007 Meredith has been the sole proprietor of her own health clubs. The Fitness Company for Women in Mashpee, The Fitness Company (coed) in East Falmouth , and most recently, FitCo Weight loss & Wellness Center of Cape Cod.

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