In general, a Mediterranean diet is the way to go for heart disease patients hoping to fend off a heart attack or minimize medications, says Stephen Devries. But simple individual steps can also make a difference.
1. Eat four handfuls of nuts per week. Nuts are rich in “good” monounsaturated fat, cholesterol-lowering sterols and blood-pressure-lowering magnesium. As little as four handfuls per week can lower heart disease risk by 37 percent.
2. Eat three servings of berries per week. Brightly colored blueberries and strawberries contain compounds called anthocyanins that relax the lining of blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and easing strain on the heart. A 2012 study of 93,000 women found those who ate three servings per week were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
3. Load up on leafy greens. Eating just one serving per day of dark green leafy vegetables lowers your risk of heart disease by 23 percent, Devries says.
4. Love legumes. Beans, including garbanzo beans, are a good source of protein without the saturated fat that comes with animal products. One cup of beans per day can lower “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels within 12 weeks, studies show.
5. Enjoy eggs in moderation. Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not an enemy of the heart, Devries says. Yes, they are high in cholesterol. But unlike other animal protein, including processed meat, eggs are very low in saturated fat. Studies show people can eat up to six yolks per week without raising heart disease risk (unless they are diabetic—in which case they should keep egg intake to a minimum).