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7 Foods to Boost Your Heart and Brain Health

Good nutrition is essential for helping boost heart and brain health as we age. It’s a lot easier to eat well during the summer months, thanks to the preponderance of fresh foods, weather that's perfect for grilling and the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables just sound refreshing during the heat and humidity of the summer.

“The summer months are a great time to pay attention to your nutrition and exercise plans because it’s a lot easier to stick to them during this time,” says Jake Quigley, Executive Director of Waterstone at the Circle. “While summer does bring unhealthy goodies into our lives, like ice cream, there are also lots of opportunities to eat well and get a lot of exercise thanks to the good weather, longer days and in-season produce.”

If you’re looking forward to summer gatherings and grill-outs, here are some superfoods to keep in mind as you plan your party foods list.

1. Oily fish
Oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines are rich with omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve blood flow and build membranes around your body’s cells. Research shows that getting enough omega-3s helps improve cardiovascular health and boost blood flow to the brain – one of the best things you can do to keep your mind in shape and supple.
Summertime tips: Fire up the grill and enjoy a delicious meal of grilled salmon or seared tuna steaks. Pair with leafy greens and some juicy watermelon, and you’ll eat like a king.

2. Dark chocolate
Chocoholics are in luck – dark chocolate, which contains a high level of cacao, also has high levels of antioxidants. These powerful nutrients stimulate blood vessel health and blood flow, and reduce the amount of oxidants – reactive molecules in your body that increase your chance of certain diseases as well as inflammation.
Summertime tips: Dip fruits and nuts in dark chocolate and serve as a light yet decadent dessert that packs a powerhouse health punch.

3. Berries
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries can be found on many summertime tables. Not only are they delicious and refreshing, but they also contain a variety of antioxidants. Studies have shown that berries in particular can help reduce inflammation in the body, improve blood flow, regulate cholesterol and just plain taste good.
Summertime tips: Add frozen berries to summery drinks for an extra splash of taste, make fruit-centric desserts or serve fruit salad as a side for meals.

4. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are filled with healthy fats that help boost cardiovascular health and are also linked to better brain function. While they’re calorie-dense, a handful of nuts makes for a great snack that fills you up, improves your arterial health and keeps you satisfied for longer.
Summertime tips: Add almonds or sunflower seeds to a lunchtime salad or incorporate nut butters into your morning smoothie.

5. Whole grains
Whole grains offer a total package of health benefits for your whole body. Studies show that adults who have a higher intake of whole grains also have a lower risk of heart disease. Whole grains are filled with fiber and are more complex carbohydrates, meaning it takes longer for your body to break them down and helps you regulate your blood sugars.
Summertime tips: Besides swapping out whole-grain options for white-flour favorites like bread, pasta and rice, look into summery side dishes that incorporate whole grains. There’s been a recent surge in side dishes that incorporate things like farrow, amaranth and bulgur wheat, so roll up your sleeves and try some new recipes.

6. Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips and others are chock-full of fiber as well as low in calories. These types of vegetables also contain compounds called glucosinolates, as well as vitamin C and flavonoids. These nutrients can reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and can lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Leafy greens like kale also contain glucosinolates and other key antioxidants. The greener, the better when it comes to these vegetables.
Summertime tips: What season is better for salads than summer? Enjoy a large, vegetable-heavy salad for lunch several times a week (top with dressings made with healthy fats, like olive oil, to get extra health points). Many cruciferous vegetables are delicious on the grill and make a great side dish on a hot summer night.

7. Coffee
Who knew that coffee, besides helping you stay awake, can help jolt your brain and heart health? Studies have shown that the java bean is packed with antioxidants and other active substances that may reduce internal inflammation and protect against disease. A regular cup of joe has also proven to help ward off heart failure, reduce your risk of colon cancer, reduce the breakage of DNA strands, lower stroke risk, improve blood sugar … the list of benefits goes on and on.
Summertime tips: Drinking a hot cup of coffee can sound delightful or horrible, depending on your preference for the bean. If the thought of a cuppa makes you break out in a sweat, consider making your own iced coffee (either black or with low-fat dairy), which can be a delicious and refreshing treat. “The chefs of Waterstone at the Circle really love summertime because it gives them a chance to incorporate delicious and nutritious foods that both celebrate the season and boost heart and brain health for our residents,” says Jake. “Every day of the week, you’ll find delicious meal items designed with locally sourced ingredients and prepared to enhance the natural flavor as much as possible. We believe food is more than just fuel for your body – it’s a medium for making memories and enjoying time together. Pull up a chair and join us at our table – you’re always welcome.”

 

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