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You probably love holiday foods. We get it. In fact, you probably have a list of your favorite holiday foods that you can’t wait to eat each year. But have you ever stopped to think how good they are for your heart?
There are some holiday food traditions that are actually pretty good for our hearts, as long as you don’t overdo it. Sweet potatoes have a lot of potassium, which can help regulate your heartbeat, and cranberry sauce can lower your cholesterol level. There are some holiday foods though, that are heart healthier than others.
So, here’s our list of the top five heart-healthy holiday foods you may want to add to your menu this year.
Topping our list of heart-healthy holiday foods is turkey. If you’re looking for a lean cut of meat, turkey is hard to beat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, turkey has less calories and fat than chicken. A 3-ounce serving of skinless white meat packs 26 grams of protein, barely 2 grams of fat, and under 1 gram of saturated fat.
Turkey breast is also a good source of arginine. This amino acid blocks plaque buildup in your arteries and increases blood flow through your coronary artery.
If you’re looking for some unique holiday foods to serve this year, try a meal that incorporates salmon or other heart-healthy fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice per week. Salmon, as well as mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines, contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, which help to keep your blood pressure low and reduce your risk for blood clots.
By using an alternate grain to make your stuffing—like whole-grain farro or quinoa instead of slices of bread—you can make a nutritionally dense dish that doesn’t sacrifice those traditional flavors you love.
Quinoa is a heart healthy holiday food because it is one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein. One cup of boiled quinoa provides many benefits, like:
Farro is long-time staple in the Mediterranean Diet. It delivers more protein (about 3.5 g) and fiber (about 3.5 g) per half-cup serving than a slice of 100% whole grain bread.
You won’t even miss mashed potatoes with this vegetable-packed substitute on your holiday foods menu. Simply steam some chopped cauliflower florets, hand mash or puree with a food processor, then add the same ingredients you would usually add to your mashed potatoes.
All cruciferous vegetables are full of high levels of sulforaphane, meaning they are good for your heart. They’re also packed with antioxidants and help to keep your blood pressure under control.
When considering dessert for your list of heart-healthy holiday foods, you will not find anything providing the benefits of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa provides flavonoids. They’re plant chemicals that coax your body into making nitric oxide, which relaxes your blood vessels and lowers your blood pressure.
You may get some days off around the holidays, but your heart-health concerns shouldn’t. Eating heart-healthy foods at your holiday dinners can be done.
If you’d like more tips, or ways to decrease your risk for developing heart disease, check out our free guide “Heart Disease Facts That May Change Your LIfe.”