The heart is very important when it comes to our health. It cleans the blood and pumps healthy blood to the rest of our organs. Without the healthy and clean blood supply, our organs will shut down and die. Keeping the heart healthy is key to living a long life and having low chances of many serious ailments, and the best way to do this is by exercising daily and keeping a healthy diet. Our intake of junk food and other unhealthy items has increased dramatically, and avoiding such food is the first step in the right direction. We need to replace such food in order for our heart to be healthy.
Foods to Include in Your Diet to Maximize Heart Health
Here are some foods that are good for your heart and that you should make an attempt to include into your diet:
1. Fatty Fish
Fish that is considered to be fatty is great for the heart as it contains a good amount of Omega-3 fatty acids that can prevent things like irregular heartbeat and the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Having fatty fish twice a week will lower the risk of such ailments. Fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Oatmeal is a great food to add to your heart-healthy diet as it contains high levels of soluble fibre and has the ability to absorb cholesterol while it is in the digestive tract so it doesn’t get absorbed into the bloodstream and affect the heart. Oats can be eaten in many ways and can be had in the form of simple porridge or can be eaten with fruits. Rather than buying instant oats, as this may contain sugar, purchase regular oats or oats that are quick-cooking.
Blackberries, strawberries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins that can help reduce oxidative stress and can also reduce the effects of inflammation and are some of the most heart-healthy fruits in the world. Studies show that berries are good for cardiovascular health. Those who eat berries on a daily basis have at least 32% lower risk of having heart attacks as compared to those who eat less.
Rich in micro-nutrients such as copper, magnesium and manganese, walnuts are a great source of fibre as well. They are another source of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants which are great for protecting the body against free radicals that have been known to play a huge role in heart diseases. They are also good for reducing inflammation. While most nuts are good for health, walnuts seem to have the most benefits when it comes to heart health. Nuts are rich in many other things such as unsaturated fats, fibre, vitamin E, plant sterols (which aid in lowering bad cholesterol) and L-arginine, known to improve the health of the arteries by making the walls more flexible and lower risk of blood clots that can cause a blockage.
5. Dark Chocolate
If you are a chocolate lover, dark chocolate is the best kind that you should consume. It contains iron, fibre, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, zinc and potassium. It also has a good amount of fatty acids, and it contains monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and is mostly saturated fats. Even though it sounds pretty good and is the best chocolate for a healthy heart, it should only be consumed in moderation. Remember, however, that only dark chocolate that has 70% or more cocoa is good for heart health. Make sure your pack reads that percentage.
6. Beans and Legumes
Beans are rich in resistant starch that resists digestion and helps improve the health of the heart as it decreases the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Dark beans like black beans have a high content of fibre, vitamin B, and other minerals. Not just that – they are also a great source of proteins and will help improve the cholesterol in your blood, which is the main cause for heart disease. They also help you feel full for a longer period if you are a vegetarian.
Tomatoes have a high content of lycopene – a plant pigment that is high in antioxidants. As we have seen, antioxidants are very important for the health of the heart as they lower the risk of having a heart attack and keep the arteries from becoming clogged. Tomatoes are also a low calorie and low sugar fruit and excellent for adding to a healthy diet.
8. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C which is another very potent antioxidant that benefits our bodies in many ways. Vitamin C also contains Vitamins A and B6, folate, magnesium, potassium, fibre, calcium and flavonoids. Research shows that men and women who consume more citrus fruits have a reduced chance of developing cardiovascular diseases compared to those who do not consume any citrus.
9. Leafy Vegetables
Green vegetables are one of the most common heart-healthy vegetables. Collard greens such as kale and spinach are great for health as they are rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. They are especially rich in Vitamin K that aids in the proper clotting of blood. They also have a high content of dietary nitrates which reduce blood pressure, lower stiffness in the arteries and line the blood vessels so that they improve their functioning.
10. Whole Grains
Whole grains are rich in nutrients as they include all the parts of the grain – the endosperm, the bran and the germ. They include brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats, buckwheat, rye and quinoa. They are high in fibre, which is good for reducing the bad LDL cholesterol and also reduce the risk of developing heart diseases.
Rich in monounsaturated fats, avocado is great food for the heart. Monounsaturated fats provide a lower risk of cholesterol and lead to a low risk of heart disease. Avocados contain potassium, which is a nutrient that is very good for the health of the heart.
Hemp seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds are very good sources of nutrients like fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that when these seeds are added to the diet, they can reduce the risk of many heart-related problems like blood pressure, inflammation, triglycerides and cholesterol. Flaxseeds can help with cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Hemp seeds have high levels of arginine, which is an amino acid associated with reducing certain inflammatory markers.
Garlic has been used for a long time as a natural remedy for various ailments, and heart health is one of them. Garlic is rich in amino acids, vitamins B6 and C, antioxidants like selenium, and minerals like manganese and sulphur. It is well known for aiding in the improvement of cardiovascular health. The allicin that garlic is so rich in helps improve cardiovascular health by regulating blood pressure, thinning blood, leading to smoother blood flow and aiding in better levels of cholesterol.
Products made of soy, like soy milk and tofu help add some protein in a person’s diet without unhealthy fat and it does not result in high cholesterol. Soy also contains high protein, fatty acids, many other nutrients and dietary fibre. All the goodness that soy provides plays a role in helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Soy foods are also high in polyunsaturated fats, have low saturated fats and are beneficial in improving the elasticity of blood vessels, which lowers the risk of coronary heart diseases. Thus, it is a good idea to replace foods that are rich in saturated fats with soy foods.
Potatoes have developed a bad reputation because of snacks like French fries and potato chips, but if cooked the right way, potatoes can be very healthy for you. A study has shown that potatoes may have the same level of ability as oatmeal when it comes to lowering cholesterol. Purple potatoes have a higher level of antioxidants, but all kinds of potatoes have fibre, potassium and vitamins and are good for you as long as they are eaten properly and in moderation.
16. Green Tea
One of the main components in green tea that makes it such a healing wonder is epigallocatechin-3-gallate, also known as EGCG. The antioxidants present in green tea also play a major role in keeping the heart healthy. Green tea helps in improving the health of the cells that line the blood vessels, which prevents the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
17. Red Wine
A glass of red wine a day with your meal has been shown to have health benefits for your heart, but be aware that too much of it can have the opposite effect as it contains alcohol. Red wine is very rich in antioxidants and may be able to help in the prevention of coronary heart disease, which ultimately leads to heart failure. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine helps reduce bad cholesterol prevents blood clots. If you do not want to drink anything with alcohol in it, which may be healthier if there is a history of alcohol abuse in your family, simply eating purple or red grapes will be effective.
18. Fresh Herbs
There are many herbs that you can add to your diet not just to flavour your food, but also to help in improving the health of your heart. Herbs such as Hawthorn, motherwort, hibiscus, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, rosemary and others have properties that help in improving blood circulation, regulating cholesterol and in strengthening the heart.
As seen, there are many fruits and vegetables that are great for the health of the heart. The key is to cook them the right way, which means staying away from deep frying food and opting for boiling, steaming or roasting them and using herbs to flavour your food rather than using fats or too much salt. Fruits can be eaten raw or in the form of a fruit salad and are the best way to satiate a sweet craving. Though these foods are known to help your heart stay healthy, too much of anything is not good, so the key is eating balanced meals, looking after your oral health and ensuring to get a proper amount of exercise on a daily basis.