Eating foods good for the heart can definitely help lower your chances of developing heart disease. Heart disease is a major cause of disability and is the number one killer in the United States. Coronary artery disease (CAD - narrowed or blocked arteries that supply blood to the heart) is the most common cause of heart attacks. Below are heart healthy foods that can help protect blood vessels and keep your heart strong.
Foods that Feed the Heart
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are excellent foods for a healthy heart, but unfortunately they are lacking in many American diets. Fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids (heart-protective antioxidants), including alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. They are rich in vitamins (including vitamins C and E - more powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals), minerals (such as magnesium, potassium, and iron), and fiber. All types of berries contain ellagic acid (a polyphenol, another antioxidant). Fruits and vegetables can help decrease “bad” cholesterol (LDL), protect blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure.
All fruits and vegetables are good for you, but according to nutrition experts from the American Dietetic Association and the Cleveland Clinic, the following are considered the best for a healthy heart:
- acorn squash
- red bell peppers
- sweet potatoes
The two best fatty fish for a healthy heart are salmon and tuna. Both are high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats. Omega-3 lowers triglyceride levels, decreases (slightly) blood pressure, and slows the growth rate of plaque in the arteries. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least 2 times a week. Other fatty fish include herring, mackerel, and sardines.
Although all nuts are good for the heart, walnuts and almonds were rated the best by the nutrition experts. Both nuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and contain many other valuable nutrients that improve the lining of arteries and lower LDL cholesterol.
Whole grain foods are a good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. A diet high in whole grains have been shown to lower one’s risk of heart disease. The three whole grains to top the list are flaxseed, oatmeal, and brown rice.
This is one food just about everyone would enjoy adding to their heart healthy diet. However, you do not want to overdue it. According to an Italian study, dark chocolate (in small amounts) can significantly decrease the inflammation that leads to heart disease. The ideal amount is 0.23 ounces per day.
The above foods good for the heart should definitely be included in your diet, but it is also important that you eat a variety of foods to ensure getting all essential nutrients and benefits.
Medline Plus: Heart Diseases - https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartdiseases.html
WebMD: 25 Top Heart-Healthy Foods - https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/25-top-heart-healthy-foods
WebMD: Dark Chocolate Prevents Heart Disease - https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20080925/dark-chocolate-prevents-heart-disease
Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).