Heart disease is responsible for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide. Diet plays a major role in heart health and can impact your risk of heart disease. In fact, certain foods can influence blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Foods that you should eat to maximize your heart health
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are well-known for their wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In particular, they are a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting. They are also high in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure. Green leafy veggies also decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels.
Whole grains include all three nutrient-rich parts of the grain: germ, endosperm and bran. Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quanta. In addition, whole grains are higher in fiber, which may help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. Multiple studies have found that including more whole grains in your diet can benefit your heart health.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are jam-packed with important nutrients that play a central role in heart health. Berries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease. Berries can be a satisfying snack or delicious low-calorie dessert. In addition try adding a few different types to your diet to take advantage of their unique health benefits.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. They are also rich in potassium, a nutrient that’s essential to heart health. In fact, just one avocado supplies 975 milligrams of potassium, or about 28% of the amount that you need in a day.
Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. These have been studied extensively for their heart-health benefits. Eating fish over the long term was linked to lower levels of total cholesterol, blood triglycerides, fasting blood sugar and systolic blood pressure. If you don’t eat much seafood, fish oil is another option for getting your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts are a great source of fiber and micronutrients like magnesium, copper and manganese. Adding walnuts to your diet can protect you against heart disease or can lower risk of heart disease. In addition, eating walnuts can reduce cholesterol levels by up to 16%, lower diastolic blood pressure by 2–3 mm Hg and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation. Diets supplemented with walnuts led to greater decreases in LDL and total cholesterol.
Beans contain resistant starch, which resists digestion and is fermented by the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Resistant starch can improve heart health by decreasing blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. So eating beans can reduce certain risk factors for heart disease also by eating pinto beans reduced levels of blood triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol. A diet high in beans and legumes significantly decreased levels of LDL cholesterol
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. Eating dark chocolate can lower risk of heart disease. Eating a dark chocolate at least five times per week has a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease than non-chocolate eaters.
Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, preventing oxidative damage and inflammation, both of which can contribute to heart disease. Low blood levels of lycopene are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Almonds are incredibly nutrient-dense, boasting a long list of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to heart health. They’re also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber, two important nutrients that can help protect against heart disease almonds can have a powerful effect on your cholesterol levels, too. High cholesterol showed that eating 1.5 ounces (43 grams) of almonds daily for six weeks reduced belly fat and levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease.
Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds are all great sources of heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. So adding these types of seeds to your diet can improve many heart disease risk factors, including inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Hemp seeds are high in arginine. Which is an amino acid that has been associated with reduced blood levels of certain inflammatory markers. Furthermore, flaxseed may help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
Garlic is used as a natural remedy to treat a variety of ailments. It is known for potent medicinal properties. And garlic can even help improve heart health. In addition, taking garlic extracts in doses of 600–1,500 mg daily for 24 weeks was as effective as a common prescription drug at reducing blood pressure.
Olive oil has many antioxidants. These can relieve inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic disease. It’s also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, and many studies have associated it with improvements in heart health. The adults who are mostly consuming olive oil have a 35% lower risk of developing heart disease.
Firstly, like other soy products, edamame is rich in soy isoflavones. This is a type of flavonoid that may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Soy isoflavones reduced total cholesterol by 3.9 mg/dL and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 5 mg/dL . Another analysis showed that 50 grams of soy protein per day decreased LDL cholesterol by an average of 3%. Edamame can reduce your cholesterol levels can have a big impact on your risk of heart disease.
Green tea has been associated with a number of health benefits, from increased fat burning to improved insulin sensitivity. It’s also brimming with polyphenols and catechins, which can act as antioxidants to prevent cell damage, reduce inflammation and protect the health of your heart. Intake of green tea associated with significantly lower levels of LDL and total cholesterol. Taking a green tea supplement or drinking matcha. Matcha is a beverage that is similar to green tea but made with the whole tea leaf, may also benefit heart health.
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