We all know how important our heart is. It’s at the center of everything and is responsible for making sure that all other organs in our body are working just fine. That’s why it’s vital for us to protect and maintain our heart’s health. Without a healthy and well-functioning heart, eventually the rest of the body’s systems will deteriorate as well.
Studies show that heart disease is the number one killer in both men and women. And when you think about it, maintaining a traditional and healthy diet void of processed foods is the sure-fire way of decreasing the risk of heart disease.
That’s why it’s a great idea to ensure we are getting our fill of heart-healthy food that can keep the old ticker in good shape. Luckily for us, there are plenty of superfoods available that can do just that. They provide our bodies with the much-needed nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to ensure cardiovascular health. Here are a few examples to get you going on that path for a healthier, happier heart.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, you name it—all kinds of berries, some way or another, contribute to a healthy heart. They have very high antioxidant and polyphenol content. These prevent strokes or heart attacks from occurring. They contain compounds that help widen the arteries, ensuring a smooth blood flow and prevent plaque buildup. Other compounds increase HDL (good) cholesterol as well. Having at least one cup a day of any kind of berries will surely help in the long run.
2. Citrus Fruits
Think oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, and the like. We all know that they offer us the most amounts of vitamin C. But getting your citrus on can guarantee a thriving heart as well. Studies show that high citrus consumption is strongly connected with reducing the chance of stroke. Vitamin C even comes through, with other studies showing that high levels of this vitamin in the blood significantly lowers the risk of heart disease and mortality. In addition, the flavonoids in citrus fruits improve blood flow through the coronary arteries, reduce blood clots, and prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Tomatoes are a good source of niacin, potassium, vitamin B6, and folate. All these are a good combo of nutrients for a healthy heart. In addition, the tomato’s lycopene content plays a part as well. For one, it decreases levels of oxidized LDL. LDL is the bad cholesterol, and when it becomes “oxidized,” it can lead to plaque buildup in the coronary arteries and then heart attacks. It reduces the risk of strokes, lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, reduces inflammation (which is associated with heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and atrial fibrillation), lessens heart tissue/cell loss after a heart attack, and improves chances of survival in patients with heart failure.
Oats contain a specific type of fiber called beta-glucan. Taking in this fiber shows a notable decrease in cholesterol levels, specifically the LDL and total cholesterol levels. This eventually leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. They also contain a unique antioxidant called avenanthramides, which lower blood pressure, dilate blood vessels, and lead to better blood flow.
Adding nuts to your diet can do wonders for your heart. They contain plenty of compounds that contribute in cardiovascular health. They contain unsaturated fats, which lower bad cholesterol levels. The omega-3 fatty acid content prevents dangerous heart rhythms that lead to heart attacks. Vitamin E stops the development of plaque in the arteries, which is associated with chest pain, coronary artery disease, or heart attack. Nuts also have plant sterols, which lower cholesterol levels. And finally, nuts have l-arginine, which improves the flexibility of the artery walls, making them less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow. Great examples of nuts to munch on are almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.
Of all the greens, a lot of people consider kale as king. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods around, but very low in calories. It has plenty of antioxidants and is an excellent source of vitamin C. And kale does plenty for the heart. It contains substances that bind bile acids and also lower cholesterol levels in the body. Its vitamin K content is also helpful in blood clotting.
This vegetable boasts of plenty of nutrients that aid to promoting a healthy heart. The beta-carotene and vitamin C work together in preventing oxidized cholesterol from building up in the blood vessel walls. The folate works with betaine and vitamin B6 to lower serum levels of homocysteine, whose high levels are associated with heart disease and stroke. Also, both magnesium and potassium help lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Also, studies show that those who already suffered from heart attacks can benefit from spinach too. The nitrite content in the vegetable speeds up recovery and boosts survival rates. Health practitioners recommend eating one cup of spinach a day.
Many people use garlic for a bevy of conditions related to the heart and the blood system. These include low blood pressure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, reduced blood flow because of narrowed arteries, heart attack, and atherosclerosis. It is also a widely recognized treatment for hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and thrombosis. It’s known to reverse plaque buildup in the arteries and to lower LDL cholesterol.
9. Red Wine
For a long time, drinking red wine—in moderation, of course—has been thought of as heart healthy. Red wine contains certain antioxidants that help prevent coronary artery disease, increase levels of HDL cholesterol, and protect against cholesterol buildup. The resveratrol in red wine also contributes to heart health as it prevents damage to blood vessels, prevents blood clots, and reduces LDL cholesterol. Keep in mind, though, not to overdo it. A healthy dose is one glass of red wine for women every day, while two glasses a day is best for men.
10. Fatty Fish
Certain fish—like lake trout, mackerel, salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines—are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the chances of heart disease and reduce inflammation throughout. These fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, lower high blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease the risk of stroke and heart failure, and reduce irregular heartbeats. In addition, these fish also contain unsaturated fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol levels. It is recommended you eat about two to three servings of fish a week.
Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.