Dietitian reveals which foods really are considered 'heart healthy'

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Lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing inflammation are a few key criteria for a food to be considered "heart healthy."

Dietitian Patricia Bannan says heart-healthy foods that have shown to lower bad or raise good cholesterol, help lower blood pressure and inflammation.

"There are certain parameters we look for in foods to call them heart healthy," said Bannan.

She warns that consumers should be wary, however, of products that may use the term a bit too leniently.

"We know oatmeal is good for your heart, but if you're having packaged oatmeal cookies, probably not so good for your heart," said Bannan.

With heart health month in sight, Bannan created three bowls containing foods that get the thumbs up for heart health:

A bowl of probiotic-packed plain, full-fat yogurt with blueberries, pistachios and dark chocolate chips.

A bowl blended with olive oil, tomatoes and beans.

A tasty combo bowl of quinoa, salmon and avocado.

"These are quick assembly foods. It doesn't have to be complicated, but each of them has three ingredients that are very good for you heart," said Bannan.

Studies suggest for nuts it's an ounce and a half a day or a handful.

For beans, it's a mere half cup and fatty fish only a couple of times a week to get the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Whole grains go for three proper servings a day.

Then there's one of our favorites - chocolate.

Flavonoids found in cacao beans are fermented and dried for chocolate, which is where the benefits are. So the more cacao, like what you find in dark chocolate, the better.

Some experts said one ounce of chocolate with 70 percent cacao or more a few times a week is great, but you'll also find flavonoids in tea, red wine, berries, cherries, apples and nuts.

Rather than counting, Bannan suggests simply incorporating these foods into your diet.

"The quantity absolutely matters," she said. "But it can be spread over the course of a week."
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