The Fundamentals of Heart Healthy Food
What makes a food heart healthy? There are a number of important nutrients and beneficial factors that make a food good for the heart, and therefore able to contribute to preventing a heart attack when consumed over a period of time. Foods that are high in antioxidants are all heart healthy foods, making a diet high in fresh, organic fruits and vegetables a foundation of a heart healthy diet. Antioxidants seek out free radicals and stop them from doing harm to the body. One dangerous aspect of free radicals is their penchant for oxidizing cholesterol, causing plaque build-up along artery walls, which can eventually lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
Folate and the B-complex vitamins are another crucial component of cardiovascular health and preventing a heart attack. Together, they help to reduce homocysteine levels in the body. Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. High levels of this compound have been associated with heart problems because it is believed that they can damage the inner lining of artery walls.
High-fiber foods are also heart health food. Studies have shown that fiber is effective in lowering cholesterol, and therefore an important factor in preventing a heart attack.
As much as a low-fat diet is recommended for heart health, healthy unsaturated fats are a necessary part of prevention. Because of their slippery, oily nature, omega-fatty acids from natural polyunsaturated and monounsaturated food sources help to rid the body of harmful waste and cholesterol build-up.
The Top 10 Heart Healthy Foods
1. Grapefruit This citrus fruit is an incredible source of vitamin C, the primary water-soluble antioxidant, as well as phytonutrients such as lycopene. It also supplies a small amount of vitamin A in the form of carotenes, which also acts as an antioxidant, folate, and vitamin B5. Grapefruits are a good source of pectin, a form of soluble fiber which helps to lower cholesterol. Red grapefruit has been shown to be twice as powerful in lowering cholesterol levels than yellow grapefruit.
2. Red Peppers Sweet red bell peppers are one of the most vitamin-packed vegetables. They have more vitamin C than an orange, and very good amounts of beta-carotene, B-complex vitamins and folic acid. Red peppers are also a good source of fiber.
3. Salmon This fish is often referred to as one of the super-foods. It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and is a lean protein, making it a wonderful food for preventing a heart attack.
4. Olive Oil Virgin olive oil is rich in phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-clotting properties. It is also an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.
5. Avocado One of the only fruits to supply healthy fatty acids, avocados are also rich in nutrients, including folate. A plant compound known to help lower cholesterol, called beta-sitosterol, is also found in this heat healthy food.
6. Oatmeal Rich in soluble fiber and B-complex vitamins and a small amount of omega-fatty acids, oatmeal is an excellent food for cardiovascular health. Oats are also rich in saponins, a slippery phytochemical that helps eliminate cholesterol and other waste from the bloodstream.
7. Cocoa Even rich, dark chocolate is a heart healthy food. Cocoa is high in flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and tell the body to produce more nitric oxide. This compound then relaxes blood vessels, thereby improving circulation and lowering blood pressure.
8. Nuts Most nuts and seeds have phytosterols, which are phytocompounds known to reduce cholesterol levels. Walnuts and almonds in particular also are great sources of fiber, folate, and healthy fatty acids.
9. Tofu Tofu is an ideal heart healthy substitute to red meat and pork. It is also a great source of minerals, folate, and isoflavones, which are phytochemicals known to help prevent heart disease.
10. Spinach Spinach, as well as other dark green leafy vegetables are potent sources of antioxidants and nutrients, as well as some omega fatty acids, all for a handful of calories.
Make the top 10 heart healthy foods a regular part of your diet not only for heart health, but for overall well-being.