The Importance Of A Heart Healthy Diet
It is true what they say, “you are what you eat.” Our food affects the way our body functions and how we are able to respond to stress, sickness, or other factors that can affect a healthy body.
Eating heart-healthy foods is essential in lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
In America and in Canada, heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women, with about a million lives lost in the U.S. because of this disease. Diet and lifestyle play a vital role in eliminating or reducing this risk.
Walter Willett, M.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that heart disease is preventable and that “a healthy diet, combined with not smoking and exercising regularly, could prevent about 80 percent of heart disease cases.”
Other benefits of eating foods for heart health include:
- a decrease in total and LDL-cholesterol;
- A decrease in blood pressure, blood sugars, and triglycerides; and
- reduced body weight
A heart-healthy diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean sources of protein, and whole grains to help protect your heart.
Foods to avoid include refined carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fats.
If you have a history of heart disease in your family and really want to get the best out of what you eat, focus on foods to keep your heart healthy.
Here are some food recommendations for heart health that you can include in your daily diet.
7 Foods To Eat Everyday For Heart Health
We know that we need a balanced diet to keep ourselves healthy. But for particular health conditions, there are specific food groups that can help with those conditions.
Heart-smart foods help decrease heart disease as they have been specifically linked to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, clear arteries, and reduced inflammation.
This means that your diet should contain a majority of this food and not just as an addition to your diet.
The following food is good for heart health:
Studies have shown that diets that are high in soluble fiber have been proven to lower LDL and total cholesterol as it binds to the cholesterol and keeps it out of the bloodstream.
Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber and has been one of the heart-healthy foods that the Food and Drug Administration allows producers to claim on its packaging of the product that it “can reduce cholesterol.”
At least 3 grams of soluble fiber a day is required to get the health benefits, which is equivalent to about ¾ cup of dry oats. This amount dropped “bad” LDL cholesterol with an average of 9.6 mg/dL and total cholesterol by 11.6 mg/dL.
Oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids that protect the heart from heart disease.
However, you have to be careful about choosing your fish because there are those that are omega-3 rich but have too much mercury, such as mackerel or albacore tuna.
Salmon is one of the best, but it can be pricey. Sardines, however, are packed with omega 3, have very low mercury content, and come cheap, inexpensive, and convenient.
At least two 3½ ounces of fish per week is recommended by the American Heart Association to see significant drops in triglycerides and an increase in HDL cholesterol.
Nuts are good sources of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, protein, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants.
If you are choosing to add nuts into your diet, go for almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts.
Walnuts, in particular, are high in anti-inflammatory alpha-linolenic acid, which reduces inflammation and improves endothelial function, resulting in better flow of the blood through vessels and into the heart.
Studies show that a 1-ounce serving of nuts five or more times a week reduced the risk of cardiovascular problems by 14 percent. And those taking more servings of walnuts per week lowered the risk by 19 percent.
Berries are among the foods that come highly recommended for heart health.
They lower inflammation and comes packed with other cardiovascular benefits. The red and blue colors in berries come from the antioxidants anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are water-soluble vacuolar pigments or flavonoids that have been found to:
- lower blood pressure,
- improve visual acuity,
- reduce the proliferation of cancer cells,
- inhibit the formation of tumors,
- prevent diabetes,
- reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases,
- reduce inflammation, and
- modulate cognitive and motor function
One of the foods that have the highest concentrations of anthocyanins is blueberries, with 120mg per half-cup.
It has been proven that consuming more than one serving of blueberries per week reduced the risk of hypertension by 10 percent.
Legumes or food known as pulses, including beans and lentils, have been a popular recommendation for heart-healthy diets.
This type of food is found to be low fat, high fiber, and nutrient-packed that are linked to reducing blood pressure.
Including legumes in your diet, four times a week and with about 2/3 cup per day lowers LDL cholesterol by 6.6 mg/dL and reduced the risk of heart disease by 22 percent.
Lentils are specifically cited for being fast to cook and are considered a secret superfood.
Probably one of the most no-brainer heart-healthy food groups is dark leafy greens. Greens are important in regulating blood pressure.
Studies have shown that dark greens, particularly broccoli, spinach, and Kale, have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effects from having high lutein content.
Lutein significantly helps in preventing macular degeneration and decreased the levels of inflammatory markers and atherosclerosis.
If you are taking anticoagulant medications, be mindful of taking too much Kale, though, as it is also high in vitamin K, which can interfere with the medications.
Have you ever heard of the saying “a beet helps the heart beat”? Well, whoever said that was right.
Beets contain high concentrations of nitrates that help reduce blood pressure and lower heart disease risk, heart attack, and stroke.
Nitric oxide, which converts from the nitrates in beets, keeps the endothelium-lining working and in good shape to prevent plaque build-up. It widens blood vessels, increases blood flow, and prevents arterial stiffness.
Beets are also rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant betalains, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Best Foods To Eat After A Heart Attack
When a person recovers from a heart attack, one of its management is to focus on preventing future heart attacks and any of its related complications, such as stroke.
The best foods to eat after a heart attack should be naturally low in saturated and trans fats and empty calories, salt and added sugar, and high in unsaturated fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
Diets should include those with reduced fat and unflavored milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Including 2-3 grams of plant sterols per day from fortified food products can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
This diet’s foundation should be plant-based, with fish and poultry at least twice a week and limiting red meat to only once or twice a month.
Water is the best choice for drinks. But if you want something with a little flavor, add a slice of lemon, cucumber, or berry. Also, if you can, consider having a glass of red wine for dinner.
Keeping your heart healthy by eating heart-healthy foods is only one part of the equation.
If you want to really reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, consider adopting heart-healthy lifestyle habits. Get regular exercise, lose weight if needed, quit smoking, and learn to manage stress.
Editor’s Note on Best Foods For Healthy Heart:
This article is created to inform you about the best foods for a healthy heart.
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