Summer brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and local gardens, which means more opportunities to add tasty and heart- healthy foods to your everyday meals. To take full advantage of the summer’s healthy selections, concentrate on color! Deep green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce, are better choices than lighter green vegetables, which add crunch to salads but aren’t as rich in nutrients. Yellow and orange (e.g., mangos, peaches, squash, and carrots), red (e.g., beets and strawberries), and blue and purple (e.g., with plums, blueberries, and blackberries) fruits and veggies are also rich sources of many vitamins and minerals that can lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), reduce risk of certain cancers, boost your immune system, and much, much more—all of which help your heart stay happy and healthy. The American Heart Association recommends at least 4.5 cups per day of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle that can help you avoid risks for heart disease and stroke. Don’t have any fresh fruits or vegetables on hand? There’s nothing wrong with using canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, which are often less expensive than fresh produce. Just make sure to check the nutrition labels on the packaging, and choose products with the lowest amount of sodium and without added sugar when possible.
Sources: 1) American Heart Association site. Seasonal produce: spring and summer. April 21, 2017. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/ HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Seasonal-Produce—Spring-and- Summer_UCM_441181_Article.jsp#.WRsXXhiZN0I. Accessed May 16, 2017; 2) Blue Cross Blue Shield—A Healthier Michigan site. March 2011. http://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/food/. Accessed May 17, 2017; 3) Slavin JL, Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(4):506–516.