Spring into heart health

Warm weather brings opportunities to boost your heart health.

As the weather warms we begin to see a variety of fruits and vegetables appear in our grocery stores, farmers’ markets and local gardens. This gives us the opportunity to add these nutrient dense, heart healthy options to our regular daily menus.

Strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe and many other fruits and vegetables are not only tasty but help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is important to think about color, eating a rainbow variety of foods. Choose dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and romaine to get your green. Look for peaches, squash, carrots to get your yellow and orange. Red beets and strawberries will pack an extra nutrient punch. Blueberries, blackberries and plums will round out your nutrient rainbow.

Research suggests that these foods contain different classes of phytonutrients and can be helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The American Heart Association advises to have at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Consuming this amount may reduce your risk of heart disease which is the leading cause of death in the United States, as well as stroke which now ranks fourth in causes of death.

Although we can often find many fruits and vegetables year round at our grocery stores, eating a variety can sometimes be rather costly. As the local gardens bloom, we see the prices on our favorite fruits and vegetables drop, which makes it easier to include them in your diet. Check out your local farmers markets, and talk to the farmers for new ideas to incorporate the local favorites into your diet. Also look at the Michigan State University Extension fruit and vegetable availability guide for ideas on which fruits and vegetables are available at different times of year.

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