The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
Back in the day, I avoided fat in all forms because I believed it was bad for my health. Ah, so young and uninformed. Luckily, I grew up and discovered that the presence of healthy dietary fat is essential for achieving optimal health. It supports hormone balance and cellular function, helps you absorb nutrients from your food, protects your organs and promotes heart health.
Here are my top three picks for whole food sources of heart-healthy fats to consider when planning your meals and snacks.
Avocados are mostly monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that improves vascular health and blood flow. Some studies have linked them to reduced inflammation, lower risk of heart disease and anti-cancer effects.
A member of the fruit family, a single avocado contains 14 grams of fiber and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including potassium and folate—both key nutrients for the heart.
I eat an avocado every day in a variety of ways:
- Blended into a smoothie
- Mashed with a hardboiled egg
- Chopped and added to salads
- Blended with cacao powder, chia seeds and a touch of raw honey to create this Chocolate Chia Pudding dessert.
Do you remember those silly commercials years ago featuring the chia pet? It turns out that the seeds responsible for the hairlike sprouts growing from those cute figurines—called chia seeds—are little nutrition powerhouses!
Chia are edible seeds that come from Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant species in the mint family. They were a staple in the ancient Aztec diet and were given as survival rations to Aztec warriors.
One ounce of chia seeds (about 2 Tbsp.) supplies 11 grams of fiber for healthy digestion and an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy heart and brain. These tiny seeds are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, niacin and zinc. They even stabilize blood sugar, making them a powerful tool in the prevention of diabetes.
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and can be added to beverages, mixed into hot cereal, stirred into yogurt or even added to vegetable or rice dishes. When added to liquid, they form a high fiber gel that can help you feel full longer.
All nuts offer health benefits, but walnuts are the crème de la crème! A good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, powerful antioxidants, fiber and magnesium, these brain-shaped nuts help promote blood flow, which in turn allows for efficient delivery of oxygen to the heart and brain.
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy walnuts:
- Stir a small handful into cooked quinoa, along with a half cup of blueberries for breakfast.
- Eat a handful for a snack.
- Toast them in the oven and toss on salads.
- Use as a breading for fish or chicken.
Adding a little healthy fat to your meals can do wonders for your energy level. Pick up a few avocados and a bag of walnuts and chia seeds on your next trip to Heinen’s and get creative! If you need some inspiration, search through our collection of recipes for delicious and nutritious meals and snacks with these heart healthy ingredients.