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Almonds

Almonds
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Almonds are a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, says dietitian, Kristian Morey. “They are also high in fibre, which helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.” High cholesterol and high blood pressure are major risks for heart disease. Almonds are also magnesium-rich, and magnesium helps protect the heart, according to a review article published in Nutrients. Grab a handful when you need a pick-me-up after a hard work-out.

Almonds are not only good for your heart, read on to find out about their anti inflammatory properties.

Asparagus

Asparagus
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Asparagus boasts high amounts of vitamin K, which may play a role in regulating calcium in the body to promote bone and cardiovascular health, Morey says. “Sauté it with sugar snap peas and toss with whole wheat pasta, olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and pepper for a meatless meal fit for a (very healthy) king or queen.

Beans

Beans
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These versatile legumes contain more protein than any other plant food – just one cup provides a quarter of what we need each day, Morey says. They also provide heart-healthy and stress-busting B vitamins, iron, and all-important calcium. Plus, they are considered ‘nature’s scrub brush’ because one serving’s 15 grams of fibre goes through the intestines and soaks up cholesterol and takes it away. Use beans in soups and stews or create a vegetarian chili with kidney beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and a little bit of hot pepper. Purée a rinsed and drained can of white beans with two tablespoons of olive oil, a small clove of garlic, and salt and pepper for a Mediterranean-style veggie dip.

Blueberries

Blueberries
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Almost all fruit is good for you – cherries, strawberries, mangos, peaches – yum! But these blue-hued beauties work overtime to provide you with antioxidants and vitamin C, both potent stress busters, Morey explains. They’re low in kilojoules and sugar, so you can snack on them to your heart’s content without an ounce of guilt (or fat). Blueberries are also a good source of fibre, which can help relieve the cramps and constipation that can occur when you’re stressed out. Pile them on cereal, eat them fresh from the basket, or blend them with some plain yoghurt, a banana, and some ice for a fabulous smoothie.

 

Broccoli

Broccoli
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Broccoli is packed with vitamins K and C, which is an antioxidant powerhouse, Morey says. Antioxidants soak up damaging free radicals that increase the risk for heart disease and other conditions. Steam broccoli in the microwave (rinse and chop it, place it in a glass or other nonreactive bowl, and cover it with a damp paper towel, not plastic wrap) for a few minutes for optimal nutrition. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and, if you dare, a sprinkle of red chilli flakes for punch, and you’ve got yourself a sublime yet simple side dish.

Finding it hard to get your daily dose of veggies? Here are some signs you’re not getting enough.

Chocolate

Chocolate
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Dark chocolate (at least 75 per cent cocoa; 85 per cent is best) can be heart-healthy, Morey says. Dark chocolate is rich in healthful flavonoids, particularly flavonols which can help lower risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). What’s more, chocolate or cocoa may lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults, the AHA states.

Here’s another reason to enjoy chocolate, researchers confirm chocolate is good for your brain. Read on to learn more.

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Leafy greens

Leafy greens
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Spinach and turnip tops provide iron plus lots of vitamin C, both good for strong bones, teeth, and hair, and vitamin A and magnesium, both of which are excellent at helping you maintain calm. “They are also high in vitamin K and folate or folic acid,” Morey says. Sauté one or more type of greens with lemon or orange juice and garlic, or purée with a little low-sodium chicken or veggie broth and white beans for a satisfying soup.

Lean beef

Lean beef
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Surprised this is on the list after hearing admonitions from experts about avoiding the red stuff? Don’t be. Beef is loaded with zinc, iron, and B vitamins (not to mention protein), Morey says. It is also satiating, meaning you feel fuller longer (hunger pangs can cause irritability and anxiety). Avoid fatty cuts, and stick to lean cuts like flank and skirt steak, and 95 per cent lean ground beef. Or, look for cuts marked ‘round’ or ‘loin’, such as top sirloin, bottom round (great for slow-cooking), and tenderloin – they are the kindest cuts in terms of fat content. And limit your intake to 170 grams when you do enjoy it.

Salmon

Salmon
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Like many kinds of fish, salmon is loaded with B vitamins, particularly the renowned stress fighters B6 and B12. In fact, B12 is one of the most important vitamins in terms of serotonin production; a vitamin B12 deficiency can even lead to depression. Heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids are also prevalent in salmon, Morey says. Alaskan wild is the best; farm-raised is the least desirable. The Heart Foundation of Australia recommends eating fish  (particularly fatty fish like salmon) at least twice a week to derive heart health benefits. Grill or pan-roast the fish, and serve on a bed of leafy greens with a side of lentils and carrots for a true power meal.

Salmon is a stress fighter but do you know what else you should eat when you feel your worst?

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes
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Talk about a nutritional powerhouse! The more colour a veggie has the better it is for you, according to nutritionists – and sweet potatoes might be the brightest of all. Potent antioxidants found in sweet potatoes help to shield our hearts, Morey says. Plus, their sweet taste makes them delicious enough to eat for dessert. But if you don’t want to go that far, try chunking them up into squares, roasting them at a high heat (200°C) for about 30 minutes, and then tossing them with some chopped prunes for a tempting and unique side dish next to roasted chicken or turkey – or as a vegetarian meal on its own.

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