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Tasty foods that are good for your heart

February 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Well-known expert Dr. Dean Ornish says 99 percent of heart disease can be prevented if we change our diet and lifestyle. Well we don't always eat as we should, but there are some hearty foods that are really tasty, starting with chocolate.

It's dark chocolate where you'll find the most flavonols, the plant chemical responsible for improving flexibility of blood vessels. A few squares a day or mug of minimally processed hot cocoa can help reduce blood pressure.

Garlic also reduces blood pressure, but it also has a significant effect on plaque buildup. So indulge in this sassy spice in savory foods.

Throwing some pomegranate arils in your salad can help garlic do its job. One study found this red fruit not only prevents plaque buildup, but when subjects drank a glass of pomegranate juice a day for a year, they reversed their plaque amount as well.

The orange is another good food for heart health because its soluble fiber pectin acts as a triple whammy: it reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and even neutralizes a protein that causes scarring of heart tissue that can lead to congestive heart failure.

Getting nutty, another food tops for your ticker. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios appear to encourage the liver to make less LDL or bad cholesterol due to their powerful plant steroids.

A rising star in the greens category is kale! Yes, it can be tough, but with a great vinaigrette or baked as chips, kale contains a special enzyme that acts like Teflon coating for your arteries.

Red wine is another winner. The resveratrol in grapes and red wine is a benefit, but it's the polyphenols in this beverage that keep blood vessels supple and reduce the risk of unwanted clotting. The caveat here: more is not better. If you drink wine, the recommended dose is one glass a day.

See photos of heart-healthy foods.