10 Heart-Healthy Foods and Where
to Find Them in Williamsburg
Did you know that your heart will beat about 2.5 billion times over the course of your lifetime? With every beat, your heart works hard to send millions of gallons of blood — along with critical oxygen, hormones and fuel — throughout your body.
It’s truly amazing that our hearts function so well and for so many decades, especially given the prevalence of unhealthy diets, smoking, lack of exercise and other detrimental lifestyle factors. Those negative habits can lead to the formation of plaques — known as atherosclerosis — in the arteries, which eventually can cause strokes and heart attacks.
Although heart disease remains the top killer of Americans, it is not an inevitable part of aging. Fortunately, you can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease by eating a heart-healthy diet. Thankfully, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat well in the Williamsburg area.
To guide you toward eating to help protect your heart, we’ve put together this list of 10 heart-healthy foods and where you can find them in Williamsburg. Whether you live here or you plan to visit, you’ll enjoy stopping by these local hot spots and sampling their healthy fare.
Salmon and other types of fatty fish are among the healthiest foods you can eat, especially when it comes to your heart. With high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon and similar fish may lower the chances of developing atherosclerosis or a heart arrhythmia. American Heart Association guidelines suggest eating fish twice a week, with a preference for fatty fish.
Around Williamsburg, you can find plenty of places to buy healthy fish like salmon, either deliciously cooked for you or ready for you to take home and prepare at your convenience. Consider stopping by Christiana Campbell’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg for grilled salmon, or pick up some fresh, seasonal seafood to take home from Yorktown Market Days on the River. The event, just a short drive from Williamsburg, features local farmers and artisans offering regionally grown, fresh seafood, produce and more.
More than three weekly servings of delicious berries, including strawberries, blueberries and others, may lower the risk of heart attacks by nearly a third, research has found. Researchers attribute the benefits to a type of flavonoids known as anthocyanins, which may dilate the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
Among Williamsburg’s many farmers markets and natural foods stores, you’ll find fresh, locally produced berries and berry products through Agriberry Farm. The farm offers jams, applesauce and fresh berries on a seasonal basis through the Williamsburg Farmers Market. Barry’s Berries and Jan’s Jams is another vendor offering fresh, hand-picked berries at the Williamsburg Farmers Market.
It may seem utterly sinful, but chocolate — particularly the dark varieties — also contains heart health-boosting flavonoids. Medical experts believe that the antioxidant power of chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods may have positive effects on your cardiovascular system, including improving clotting ability of blood platelets, improving blood flow to your heart and brain, and reducing your blood pressure.
You’ll find a variety of chocolate treats at Chocolate Cravings, which offers its wares at the Williamsburg Farmers Market. Among the many sweet offerings, focus on dark chocolate selections like dark berry chocolate bark for the highest level of flavonoids.
Tomatoes are rich in a number of heart-healthy substances, including beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamins A and C, and lycopene, which gives these fruits their deep red color. Lycopene, specifically, may offer significant heart health benefits, research has found.
Among other benefits, tomatoes have been shown to lower markers of inflammation associated with cardiovascular events like atrial fibrillation, strokes and heart attacks. Reduction of inflammation markers appears especially pronounced for overweight individuals. Tomatoes also may help lower blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension and hypertension, and they may help lower the risk of stroke and improve survival rates following heart failure.
You’ll find delicious, farm-fresh tomatoes and tomato products at the Williamsburg Farmers Market and a variety of other farmers markets throughout the Williamsburg area.
Modest amounts of red wine and other types of alcohol are believed to lower the risk of heart disease — although more than a drink or two on a daily basis may increase the risk. If you’re not already a drinker, doctors don’t recommend that you start. Instead doctors recommend that you get heart health-boosting resveratrol from other sources, like grapes and peanut butter.
If you do enjoy a glass of wine a few times a week, though, you’ll find a wide variety of local vintages in Williamsburg and the surrounding areas. Grayhaven Winery, linked to one of Virginia’s oldest independent commercial vineyards, offers hand-made wines from French hybrid and vinifera grapes. You can find Grayhaven Winery’s offerings at the Williamsburg Farmers Market.
Hampton Roads Winery, which also offers its wares through the Williamsburg Farmers Market, is located at White Oak Farm, home of the “World’s Tallest Goat Tower.”
Walnuts, Almonds and Other Nuts
As part of a healthy diet, nuts may offer significant heart health benefits, medical authorities say. A variety of nutrients, along with unsaturated fatty acids, make nuts a healthy snack that also keeps well and travels easily. Nuts are high in calories and fat, so go easy on the amounts you consume; a handful a day is plenty, experts say.
Evidence is inconclusive on how much nuts may benefit your heart health, but eating them is typically fine for most people unless you have an allergy. Research has found that modest servings of nuts may help lower your LDL — or “bad” — cholesterol, which contributes to the plaques that accumulate on blood vessels. Nuts also may help reduce inflammation that may contribute to heart disease.
You’ll find a variety of nuts available at our seasonal farmers markets in the Williamsburg area and year-round at the many natural food stores.
Recent research has found that eggs may reduce your risk of heart disease. One recent study had participants eating either two or 12 eggs per week; after six months, neither group experienced significant changes in their risk factors for heart disease.
In another study, researchers tracked healthy individuals over nine years, finding that those who ate eggs on a regular basis had a reduced risk of dying from a stroke or heart disease compared to subjects who avoided eggs.
In the Williamsburg area, you can buy fresh eggs from a number of local farms, along with farmers markets and natural foods stores.
Oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits offer a variety of health benefits, and they can help boost your heart health. As with a range of other produce, the flavonoids in citrus may provide the biggest advantages, in this case reducing triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol. In addition, the vitamin C in citrus may help lower the risk of heart disease.
Note that if you take statin medications to lower cholesterol, you should check with your doctor before consuming grapefruit, which may interfere with the efficacy of the drugs.
Find citrus fruits at farmers markets and natural food stores throughout the Williamsburg area.
A recent study found that a molecule in green tea may help protect you against atherosclerosis, a frequent cause of strokes and heart attacks. The research looked at whether a specific chemical in white, green and black teas — but most prevalent in green tea — could help fight atherosclerosis by breaking down a substance that enlarges plaques and restricts blood flow. Indeed, researchers found that the unique combination of molecules in green tea converts the plaque-building substance into smaller, less flow-restrictive molecules.
In the Hampton Roads area, which includes Williamsburg, you can enjoy a cup of tea in a variety of venues, including Aromas World, which offers selections of green, black, white, herbal and other teas.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Few foods are as good for your overall health — and the health of your heart — as leafy green vegetables. From cabbage to broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach and kale, these nutritional powerhouses are filled with substances that provide advantages for your heart and circulatory system. Rich in vitamins C, A and K, along with fiber, leafy green vegetables can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, experts say.
Across Williamsburg, you’ll find these healthy vegetables in a variety of venues, including the seasonal Christopher Newport University Farmers Market and Coleman Nursery & Farmers Market. Throughout the year, you can buy leafy greens and other fresh produce at natural foods stores and groceries around the Hampton Roads region.
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