Although you might think that "heart health" is only something for your grandparents need to worry about, it’s time to show your ticker a little love... starting now. Heart disease affects one in four Americans and is the leading cause of death in the U.S., so it’s never too early to start thinking about prevention.
Let's start by focusing on eating the right foods... superfoods. But don't worry, we aren't going to bore you with the same acai/chia seeds/goji berry story because while we love those foods, they can put a serious dent in your wallet before you've even finished at checkout. The good news is that there are plenty of inexpensive superfoods that don't require a visit to the local organic market and won’t leave your broke.
*All prices on Amazon Fresh
1. Beets: $1.98 for 2 pounds
We can't think of anything better than when we sit down at a restaurant and there's a beet and goat cheese salad on the menu. Then we say, "we can totally make this at home," but then we forget. Well here's your reminder because eating antioxidant-rich beets is a great way to beet (pun intended) inflammation. Beets are full of inflammation-fighting compounds, like anthocyanins, betaine, and lutein, and some research even suggests that betaine can lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
And if you like your beets in juice form, studies have shown that the nitrates in beet juice may lower blood pressure. Stock up on these royal root veggies now while they are cheap, and DIY your favorite restaurant salad.
2. Citrus: $1.29 for a medium orange
You can’t step into a supermarket without being surrounded by the many varieties of winter citrus (even in the summer months you can find this seasonal winter fruit in the produce section). These beauties are juicy, vibrant, and good for your heart in more ways than one.
A recent review found that overweight and obese people who regularly ate grapefruits experienced a significant decrease in their blood pressure. Other research indicates that women who eat citrus daily may significantly decrease their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you’ve got a juicer at home, throw the entire orange into that thing to reap the benefits of the antioxidant hesperidin, which is only found in the peel. Consumption of this antioxidant may decrease blood pressure.
3. Frozen Berries: $3.79 for a 16-ounce bag
Don’t be fooled by the $8 price tag on a carton of strawberries in the middle of winter. You can actually get berries on the cheap, but you need to venture past the produce section. Take a walk to the frozen food aisle and pick up a bag of frozen berries. One study found that women who eat more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries a week may have up to 34 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than those who don’t.
4. Kale: $2.50 for 1 bunch
You can still rock your Beyonce-inspired Kale sweatshirt, but the once trendy veg is now a superfood staple. With significant levels of vitamin A, B6, K, C, manganese, calcium, copper, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, kale is one of the most nutrient-dense veggies in the produce section for only about 35 calories per cup (that's before you cook it in oil, duh). Research has also linked the consumption of kale with a decrease in cholesterol.
Although your favorite salad place may charge $15 for a kale salad, there’s no need to spend that much. Kale can withstand cold temperatures, so it’s abundant in the winter and shouldn’t break your piggy bank when you buy it at the store. You got this; you can make your own kale salads.
5. Pulses: $0.79 for 16-ounce can of garbanzo beans
Otherwise known as chickpeas, beans, legumes and dried peas, pulses are the secret superfood that you're probably already eating (like when you come home after work and devour the entire tub of hummus). These plant-based stars are full of protein, fiber, and other heart-healthy nutrients, like folate, iron, and potassium.
Research has shown that eating pulses can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help with body-weight management. Not to mention that all varieties of pulses are extremely affordable, especially if you opt for dried beans or shop in the bulk section. Dried beans take one extra step to soak them, but you're an adult, you can handle it.
6. Oats: $2.99 for an 18-ounce container
The term "that's so oatmeal" is usually used to describe something painfully boring. But IMHO, the humble oat doesn’t get the love it deserves. Here’s why—it’s a super-versatile grain, fitting nicely into everything from your standard oatmeal and overnight oats to veggie burgers and meatloaf. Plus, those little flakes pack in 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein in just a half cup. But here’s the real kicker: Oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan, which may lower cholesterol. Research suggests that eating 3 grams of beta-glucan fiber per day can reduce “bad cholesterol” (LDL) by five to 10 percent in healthy people. #bringbackoatmeal
7. Bananas: $1.58 per bunch
We know what you're thinking... Bananas, really? You can't get more basic than that. But this sweet tropical fruit is one of the best deals in the produce section. Nanners are super cheap and deliver big on one heart-healthy nutrient—potassium. Not eating enough potassium can raise your blood pressure, but increasing your intake of potassium by 1.6 grams per day can reduce your risk of stroke by 21 percent. To put that into perspective, one large banana has almost 500 milligrams of potassium. Add it to your awesome oatmeal, smear it with almond butter, or just take it as a snack on the go because bananas aren't as basic as you think.