Springfield hospital says eat these 6 foods for great health

Blueberries are one of six foods Mercy Health recommends you eat. (Dreamstime/TNS)

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Blueberries are one of six foods Mercy Health recommends you eat. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Mercy Health, Springfield’s primary medical provider, says the best way to get your heart in shape is to maintain a healthy diet.

Here are six foods they suggest should be part of your everyday meal plan to keep your heart going longer.

1. Blueberries

Our bodies often don’t produce as many antioxidants as we typically need. By eliminating free radicals — harmful byproducts of metabolism — antioxidants help the health of several organs, including the heart and eyes, as well as the immune system. Blueberries are a high source of antioxidants, as well as Vitamins C and K, manganese, fiber and copper. Try eating at least a cup a day. The blue tongue is worth it.

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2. Avocados

You can’t go anywhere without hearing about how great avocados are and for good reason. The super-food is a great source of monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL levels and raises HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind). It’s also a good source of oleic acid, which is known to reduce inflammation and blood pressure and also help with weight loss. So the next time you eat more than your fair share of guacamole on game day, just say you’re trying to shed a few pounds.

3. Yogurt

Did you know that gum disease is linked to heart disease? To head the bigger concern off at the pass, experts suggest including more yogurt in your diet. Research conducted with 1,000 adults found people who eat yogurt had the healthier gums, so it’s a twofer. Want even more benefits? The probiotics in yogurt also help improve digestion and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

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4. Whole grains

You may have heard recently that ultra-processed foods like pasta and packaged bread have been linked to cancer, in addition to heart disease and other illnesses. But don't panic, carb lovers: whole grains are here for you. In addition to being better overall, the dietary fiber in whole grains help improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other maladies.

5. Fatty fish

Just two servings of fatty fish per week can help you lower your risk of a heart attack. Fish like salmon, tuna, lake trout and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are unsaturated fats that reduce inflammation and can prevent damaged blood vessels and stroke. If you can’t get wild-caught fish easily, fish oil supplements can work just as well.

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6. Dark chocolate

Yes, chocolate. You may have heard in the past about the health benefits of dark chocolate in moderation. The benefits center around reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as increasing blood flow to the brain and heart, making blood platelets less likely to clot. Don’t go buying out the candy section at the grocery store, though. Only dark chocolate containing 70 percent cacao or higher offer these benefits.

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