10 Heart Healthy Foods to Optimize Wellness
With over 1 in 10 Americans being diagnosed with it, heart disease is the highest leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease is preventable with the right dietary regimen, so it’s important to make healthy choices. A good diet can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, because both of these can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Beyond regular exercise and an overall healthy diet, these ten foods are some of the best for protecting your heart and blood vessels.
10 Heart-Healthy Foods
Salmon. For years, the American Heart Association has recommended that people eat fish high in unsaturated fat at least two times a week. The unsaturated fats in fish are known as omega-3 fatty acids, and they are incredibly beneficial for your heart. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and decrease your risk of stroke and heart failure. A serving of salmon is one of the best ways to get a healthy dose of omega-3s.
Tuna. If you’re not crazy about the taste of salmon, then tuna is an excellent alternative. Tuna also contains a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids, even though it doesn’t have as much as salmon. However, tuna also provides almost half of your daily requirement of niacin, or B3. Niacin is said to improve survival odds for those who have had a heart attack, so tuna should be a staple on your grocery list.
Oatmeal. Not only is oatmeal a tasty breakfast food, but it is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t like the taste of fish or are on a meat-free diet, oatmeal should be a staple in your pantry. Oatmeal contains a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and four grams of fiber in every serving, along with other nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Blueberries. One of the biggest threats to your heart is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract the damaging effects of them with antioxidants. Blueberries are an incredible food for your body and your heart because they are natural antioxidants. The antioxidants in blueberries have been strongly linked to reducing the levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, which is a major component of heart disease.
Carrots. These bright orange-colored vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they are a good source of antioxidants. Carrots can help with vision, reduce the chances of cancer, and aid in digestion. They are good for your heart because the fiber and potassium in them can help manage blood pressure. The American Heart Association encourages people to eat more foods that contain potassium, like carrots, because potassium helps relax blood vessels and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Spinach. Spinach is an all-around heart-healthy food. It’s packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber. Fresh spinach can be added to almost anything without changing the taste. You can sneak a few handfuls in a fruit smoothie or add it as the base of a salad instead of lettuce. When you’re picking between fresh or frozen spinach, fresh spinach contains more folate which is key to lowering your risk of heart disease.
Broccoli. With much of the same vitamins and minerals as spinach, these baby trees are great for overall heart health. This vegetable’s anti-inflammatory properties may also be able to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by blood sugar problems. Broccoli is also an antioxidant, meaning it helps fight and neutralize free radicals in the body that cause cell damage over time. The only downside to this amazing vegetable is the fact that its high fiber content can cause bowel irritation or gas when eaten too frequently.
Flaxseed. These tiny seeds are packed with Omega-3s along with soluble and insoluble fiber. Flaxseed also has plant estrogen and antioxidants. If you’re on a restricted diet, be a budget or dietary limitation, then adding flaxseed to your routine can be amazingly beneficial. To consume, flaxseed must be ground. However, it can be added to almost anything that you normally eat. You can add it to cereal, yogurt, or even in your morning fruit smoothie.
Red wine. Did you know that red wine in moderation can be beneficial for your heart? Doctors don’t suggest beginning to drink just for heart health, especially if you have a family history of alcohol or addiction. Of course, if you already enjoy alcohol in moderation, red wine appears to have health benefits. While links between red wine and fewer heart attacks aren’t completely understood, theories suggest that the benefit comes from the antioxidants in red wine. These antioxidants are thought to increase the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and protect against the buildup of bad cholesterol.
Dark chocolate. Last but definitely not least on this list, dark chocolate has been shown to offer heart-healthy benefits. Similar to red wine, chocolate contains resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids), which have been linked to lowered blood pressure. For the best amount of benefits, stick to dark chocolate that has a cocoa content of 70% or higher. Just like with wine, it’s important to consume this heart-healthy food in moderation, because chocolate is also high in calories, fat, and sugar.
When it comes to overall heart health, you will find the best benefits in the kitchen. It’s important to stay active and drink a lot of water, but at the end of the day, adding heart-healthy foods to your diet is imperative to long-term health. It’s not necessary to consume one of these foods every single day. Instead, average your consumption of them out over a week or two weeks to ensure you’re getting a varied and balanced diet. This way, you will get all of your necessary nutrients, but you won’t become bored or tired of these foods, either.
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