The Best Foods for a Healthy Heart
We all know a healthy heart is a vital part of living a healthy and long life. But how do you keep your heart healthy? Aside from eating well, it’s important to stay active, maintain a healthy body weight, avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, manage a healthy blood pressure, minimize alcohol consumption, and manage stress well. You should also visit your adult medicine doctor regularly to ensure all health checkups are up-to-date and address any health concerns you may have. The largest impact on your heart health, however, is what you eat.
Across the world, one-third of deaths occur because of various forms of heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is one of the top three largest health epidemics in the United States, and poor nutrition is directly related to this growing problem. In fact, about half of all deaths that are caused by heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are caused by poor diet. The World Health Organization has estimated that 80% of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes could be eliminated and prevented through simple diet and lifestyle changes. While these statistics are indeed staggering, they mean nothing if something isn’t done to improve them. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, but action needs to occur in order for true change to happen.
You can begin making healthy changes today by making good choices when it comes to your diet. Vary the types of foods that you eat, minimize processed and sugary foods and beverages, and eat more whole, raw foods. Additionally, be sure to enjoy some of these best foods for a healthy heart on a regular basis. They will help you avoid needing cardiovascular treatment and will keep you healthy and living a full life for even longer.
Anyone who has ever looked at a list of superfoods or best healthy foods has come across leafy greens. Kale, spinach, collard greens, and even broccoli are renowned for their nutritiously dense makeup. They are packed full of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they have been linked in multiple studies to a lower risk of heart disease. Leafy greens are high in vitamin K, which promotes proper blood clotting and protects the arteries. They are also full of dietary nitrates, which are great for your heart health. Nitrates have been linked to decreased blood pressure and improved function of cells that line the blood vessels.
Most people know that fruit is relatively healthy, but it can also be higher in natural sugars, therefore should be consumed in moderation. Berries, however, are some of the lower sugar fruits and are incredibly healthy for your heart and body. Eating berries has proven to help individuals lower their risk of developing heart disease. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries can help reduce bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, improve function of cells lining blood vessels, improve blood clotting, lower body mass index, reduce inflammation, and more. A large number of antioxidants in berries can also improve your overall health and help you fight off sickness and disease more easily.
Another common superfood, avocados are one of the healthiest fatty foods you can consume and they are amazing for improving heart health. They are packed full of monounsaturated fats, which are responsible for lowering cholesterol levels and reducing risk of heart disease. Avocados are also high in potassium, which can decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke. If you’re not a fan of avocados, try tossing part of one into a smoothie or cooking with heart-healthy avocado oil.
You’ve probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids and how important they are to your health. They reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve the function of cells throughout the body. Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are the best sources of these important nutrients. Eating them regularly can reduce irregular heartbeat, minimize plaque build-up in the arteries, and decrease triglycerides (of which high concentrations lead to stroke). Eating little to no fish is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and eventual cardiovascular treatment.
Whole grains have always been important for heart health, but they’ve gained a bad reputation recently. The important thing to remember about eating grains is to ensure that they are whole grains. This means you’re consuming the germ, endosperm, and bran parts of the grain. Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, oats, rye, buckwheat, and barley are the best choices to consume this heart-healthy food. Consuming a sufficient amount of whole grains can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke.
The key to this heart-healthy food is to choose dark chocolate. Chocolate that is above 70% cacao will have less sugar and dairy and more benefits for your heart and your overall health. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and a lower risk of plaque in the arteries.
Lycopene is one of the main beneficial nutrients found in tomatoes. It has antioxidant properties that help to minimize and neutralize free radicals in the body, helps prevent inflammation, and lowers the risk of stroke and heart attack. Tomatoes can also increase good cholesterol, decrease bad cholesterol, and minimize plaque in the arteries. They’re also full of potassium, low in sugar, and low in calories.
Nuts are a great heart-healthy snack, and they can be added to a number of foods and recipes to increase flavor. Most nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin E. They have been linked to healthy cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of heart disease. Choose lower salt varieties of almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and peanuts.
Plant-based proteins are some of the healthiest ways to get your daily amount of protein. Beans, lentils, peas, and other legumes are high in protein and low in unhealthy fats, making them incredibly heart-healthy. They have been linked to lower levels of bad cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, decreased inflammation, reduced levels of blood triglycerides, better control over blood sugar, and more.
It’s important to note that fatty oils refer to those with healthy fats—things like olive oil and avocado oil, for example. Fish oil could also fall into this category. Olive oil, in particular, is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, and it has been linked to improved cardiovascular risk, meaning a lower likelihood of heart-related problems and needing cardiovascular treatment. Adult medicine experts recommend consuming extra virgin olive oil daily, whether in food preparation or by using it in salad dressing or a dipping sauce. Fatty oils lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduced blood sugar levels, and reduced inflammation. It has also been linked to a decreased risk of chronic disease, heart disease, strokes, heart attack, and heart-related death.
Seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids that are great for heart health. They are also high in fiber and can improve a number of issues related to a higher risk of heart disease. Flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are the most popular foods in this category, and they can help with inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Moderation is key when it comes to red wine as a heart-healthy beverage. While two or more drinks each day can significantly increase your risk of heart disease, one glass of red wine per day has been shown to decrease heart disease risk factors and improve overall health, including beneficial effects from antioxidants, improved blood vessel function, better cholesterol levels, and more.
The benefits of green tea have been known for a long time, but they are becoming more prevalent in our society today as many individuals have experienced the health effects first hand. Benefits include increased fat burning, prevention of cell damage, reduced inflammation, better cholesterol levels, improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.