Eating for a Healthy Heart

Many of us get so engulfed in maintaining an impeccable physique that we often forget about the more important aspect of our body; those things on the inside that keep us alive.  Every person alive has some degree of plaque in our arteries.  For some it may be very little, for others it may be nearing emergency.  That being said, many of us also have some extent of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

The CDC estimates that 25% of adults have CVD.  Men are at an even heightened risk of a) developing CVD and b) dying of CVD.  These are troubling numbers, however the good news is that we can significantly alter our fate through diet.  The better your diet the less likely you are to succumb to CVD.  Below are 10 heart-friendly foods that you should eat more of to improve your heart function.

1.  Fatty Fish: Halibut, Albacore Tuna, Trout, Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna Steak.  Studies show populations with a diet containing lots of fish have low rates of CVD.  The types of fish listed above contain omega-3 fatty acids which are effective in lowering triglyceride levels as well as blood pressure. 

2.  Legumes: Lentils, Peas, Beans.  Legumes are low fat and high in a variety of nutrients that benefit your health.  They contain high levels of fiber, protein, potassium, iron, vitamin B, and phytochemicals which help prevent a variety of conditions, including CVD.

3.  Teas: Black, Green, White.  These teas are chock full of antioxidant polyphenols.  Antioxidants significantly alter free-radicals which compromise various cells in the body.  It has also been shown that these antioxidants prevent LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidizing, which in turn prevents plaque formation that can clog our arteries.

4.  Bananas.  This potassium rich food helps us maintain a lower blood pressure.  Studies show that diets lacking potassium leave a person at rick for elevated blood pressure.  Potassium helps keep cell fluid balance constant which directly keeps our blood pressure in check.

5.  Leafy Greens: All varieties.  Some of the best foods on the planet for good health.  Tons of fiber, folate, carotenoids, potassium, calcium, and phytochemicals can be found in this food group.  The antioxidants found in carotenoids are shown to decrease levels of plaque build up and heart attack.  Aim to consume 3 cups of green vegetables each week. 

6.  Whole grains.  Diets rich in whole grains are benefitted by lower blood cholesterol.  This also help prevent CVD.  Always be sure a nutrition label says “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the back.  Oats, oat bran, quinoa, barley, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta are great foods to work into your diet.

7.  Garlic.  Compounds found in garlic have been shown to affect risk factors that lead to CVD.  Some of these factors include cholesterol and platelet activity.  To get the most from your garlic, try putting it through a garlic press.  Stay away from microwaving foods with fresh garlic as this will decrease the levels of heart healthy compounds.

8.  Berries: Gogi berries, raspberries, blue berries, strawberries, black berries.  Most berries contain more antioxidants and heart healthy phytochemicals than other fruits out there.  Sure, you can take your antioxidants in pill form, but it is always preferable to get them through the original food source.  Berries have been attributed to increase in HDL (good cholesterol) and a lowered blood pressure.

9.  Olive oil.  The cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet.  Olive oil is full of healthy, monounsaturated fats.  These healthy fats are related to lower levels of CVD and decreased LDL oxidation.  You should strictly be using olive oil in place of vegetable and other oils in the kitchen.  Feel free to sprinkle some on salads, pasta dishes, or fish, for instance.

10.  Oranges.  Extremely high in Vitamin C, folate, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and potassium.  They will also help you keep your cravings for sweet foods at bay.  Increased potassium intake is responsible for lower blood pressure levels.


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