By Sally Kuzemchak, RD
What's in it: Mixed greens, avocado, asparagus, almonds, and dried cranberries with vinaigrette.
Cranberries contain antioxidants called flavonoids that block bad LDL cholesterol from being oxidized. (That's when it's turned into an even more dangerous form that triggers plaque buildup in your arteries.)
A half cup of steamed asparagus is rich in folate. This vitamin helps head off high levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease.
Including almonds in a plant-rich diet can lower your LDL cholesterol as much as statin drugs do, says research from the University of Toronto.
Leafy greens pack heart-protective folate, potassium, and antioxidants. So it's no surprise that women who eat the most leafy greens every day have up to a 50 percent lower risk of heart disease, according to Italian research.
Avocado is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help lower your LDL cholesterol. Adding avocado to your salad also helps you soak up more heart-protective vitamins from the veggies, says research from Ohio State University.
Women who use oil-and-vinegar salad dressings at least five times a week have a lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease. Combine 6 tablespoons canola oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.