The foods you eat can have an effect on your cardiovascular system. Your heart is a finely tuned machine. To keep it running in top form you need to give it heart healthy fuel. And that means you should choose a healthy diet. Some foods offer great heart benefits. Including these heart-healthy foods as part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet can help keep your heart in good shape and minimize your risk of heart disease.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K and nitrates, which can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function. Studies show that a higher intake of leafy greens is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Whole grains include all three nutrient-rich parts of the grain: germ, endosperm and bran.Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa. Compared to refined grains, whole grains are higher in fiber, which may help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. Studies show that eating whole grains is associated with lower cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, as well as a lower risk of heart disease.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are jam-packed with important nutrients that play a central role in heart health.
Berries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease. Studies show that eating them can reduce multiple risk factors for heart disease.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats and also in potpotassium. They may help lower your cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of metabolic syndrome.
Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively for their heart-health benefits.
Fatty fish and fish oil are both high in omega-3 fatty acids and may help reduce heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol.
Walnuts are a great source of fiber and micronutrients like magnesium, copper and manganese. Research shows that incorporating a few servings of walnuts in your diet can help protect against heart disease. Studies suggest that walnuts can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Beans contain resistant starch, which resists digestion and is fermented by the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
According to some animal studies, resistant starch can improve heart health by decreasing blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Beans are high in resistant starch and have been shown to reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. It has been associated with a lower risk of developing calcified plaque in the arteries and coronary heart disease.
Additionally, chocolate can be high in sugar and calories, which can negate many of its health-promoting properties. So be sure to pick a high quality dark chocolate bar that has at least 70% cocoa.
Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, preventing oxidative damage and inflammation, both of which can contribute to heart disease.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol.
Almonds are incredibly nutrient-dense, boasting a long list of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to heart health. Almonds are high in fiber and monounsaturated fats, and have been linked to reductions in cholesterol and belly fat.
Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds are all great sources of heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
For example, hemp seeds are high in arginine, an amino acid that has been associated with reduced blood levels of certain inflammatory markers.
Human and animal studies have found that eating seeds may improve several heart disease risk factors, including inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
For centuries, garlic has been used as a natural remedy to treat a variety of ailments.
In recent years, research has confirmed its potent medicinal properties and found that garlic can even help improve heart health. Be sure to consume garlic raw, or crush it and let it sit for a few minutes before cooking. This allows for the formation of allicin, maximizing its potential health benefits.
Garlic and its components have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. They may also help inhibit blood clot formation.
Olive oil is packed with antioxidants, which can relieve inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic disease. It is also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, and many studies have associated it with improvements in heart health. It has been associated with lower blood pressure and heart disease risk.
Green tea has been associated with a number of health benefits, from increased fat burning to improved insulin sensitivity, Green tea is high in polyphenols and catechins. It has been associated with lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.
What you put on your plate can influence just about every aspect of heart health, from blood pressure and inflammation to cholesterol levels and triglycerides.