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How to Eat for a Healthy Heart

Some foods simply work harder than others to protect your health. The following foods can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and generally reduce your risk of heart disease. Kathy B. Glazer, RD, director of nutrition for the George Washington University Weight Management Program, and the editors of FITNESS share a few of our favorite ingredients for a heart-healthy kitchen.

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Blueberries

Antioxidants in these berries help fight inflammation and lower bad LDL cholesterol, blood fats, and blood sugar.

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Olive and Canola Oil

High in heart-smart monounsaturated fats; lower in saturated fat than other oils.

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Cinnamon

Mix 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 teaspoons honey with 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Spread on sliced apples or pears.

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Oatmeal

A great source of soluble fiber and full of heart-friendly B vitamins.

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Peppermint

Puree 2 tablespoons fresh mint with 1/2 cup yogurt or ricotta cheese. Serve with berries.

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Nuts

Packed with heart helpers, like omega-3 fatty acids, phytochemicals, potassium, and vitamin E.

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Salmon

Omega-3s help reduce triglycerides and bad cholesterol and make blood flow smoothly, lessening the chance of clotting.

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Ginger

Toss 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce, and 1/2 cup 100 percent pineapple juice for a zesty marinade.

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Crushed Red Pepper

Dust 1/8 teaspoon on hummus for a kick, or saute 1/4 teaspoon with 1/2 cup light coconut milk for a shrimp-and-broccoli stir-fry.

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Red Wine and Grape Juice

Contain high levels of antioxidants that help protect the vascular system.

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Sage

Dip a whole-grain roll in olive oil instead of butter, with a sprinkle of sage and black pepper.

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Spinach

B vitamins and antioxidants fight heart disease; magnesium can help lower blood pressure.

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Curry

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon on cooked cauliflower, or add to chicken salad.

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Flaxseeds

Rich in ALA, a fatty acid that may help regulate blood pressure, blood fat, and inflammation.

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Legumes

Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol and can help improve insulin resistance.

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Soy

Replace meat in your meal with soy-based foods, such as tofu, to help lower cholesterol.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2008.

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