While deaths due to heart disease have dropped in recent years, it’s still the No. 1 killer of Americans. The good news is that we now know a ton about how to prevent cardiovascular disease, which includes both strokes and heart attacks.
It’s clear that healthy eating and living can make a huge difference.
A growing body of research suggests that what you eat and drink can protect your body against myriad health woes—and studies have shown that up to 70% of heart disease cases are preventable with the right food choices.
This post is going to be all about the foods with properties that make them perfect for keeping the heart healthy.
Thanks to their omega-3 fatty acid content, walnuts are great for protecting the heart.
They’re rich in minerals such as: zine, copper, potassium, magnesium, phosphate and vitamin Bs. Having a high content of omega-3 makes walnuts an excellent an anti-inflammatory, anti-arrhythmic and anti-thrombotic food source.
Walnuts are also rich in arginine, which is an amino-acid that helps relax blood vessels and reduce high blood pressure. Their nutritious saturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol at the same time.
You should eat a maximum of 30 grams of walnuts at least 3 times a week. Avoid eating too many walnuts as they are a high-caloric food.
Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as dietary supplements.
Beans can provide the body with folate, which is a vitamin that helps reduce homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino-acid that plays a part in cardiovascular diseases.
In general, beans can lower the risk of having heart diseases. They’re an excellent source of protein and fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Beans have plenty of vitamin D, iron, potassium and calcium.
Red wine, or small amounts of any type of alcohol, are thought to lower heart disease risk.
While some say a polyphenol found in red wine, resveratrol, gives that beverage an added benefit, research suggests that any type of alcohol in moderation works.
Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, including one in 2012 that found that daily chocolate consumption could reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation.
Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars don’t make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.
For a healthy heart, apples are a great fruit to include in your diet. Apples are rich in fiber, vitamin A and C, flavonoids and calcium. They also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Eating an apple a day can reduce bad cholesterol levels thanks to its high pectin content (which aids in metabolizing cholesterol).
In a landmark study, people at high risk for heart disease who followed the Mediterranean diet (high in grains, fruits, vegetables) supplemented by nuts and at least four tablespoons a day of olive oil reduced their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dying by 30%. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Olives themselves—both green and black- are another source of “good” fat.
Oranges, in addition to being a rich vitamin C source, contain high levels of flavonoids, which are important for reducing the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
Their wealth of fiber stimulates the process of eliminating toxins and fats. In addition, this fruit is great for improving blood circulation and stabilizing blood pressure.
Pomegranates contain numerous antioxidants, including heart-promoting polyphenols and anthocyanins which may help stave off hardening of the arteries.