10 Foods to Eat Weekly For Long-Lasting Heart Health
Summary: Our heart is the most essential organ, but often overlooked when it comes to our diet. Focusing on these ingredients weekly will guarantee healthier arteries and cardiovascular function for better fitness today and longevity into the future.
12 minute read.
The Healthy Fats
1. Fatty Fish
Our hearts love Omega-3’s. Fish, particularly cold-water fish, like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, are the highest in these heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish oil decreases inflammation and helps lower your levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the bad form of cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids also lower blood pressure, help prevent blood clotting and decrease your risk for developing an irregular heart rate.
Delicious, crunchy, perfect for snacking. Adding just 1.5 ounces of nuts to your diet can also help reduce your risk of heart disease. Just make sure you’re not taking in too many calories. Nuts are very calorically dense! They’re extremely good for you, but if you’re watching your weight, we recommend measuring out what you want to eat before you dig in. Mindlessly snacking on nuts could easily add 500 calories to your day.
A 1.5-ounce helping of almonds, or about 34 almonds, has 245 calories, 9 grams of protein, and 21 grams of heart-healthy fats.
Nuts also are frequently salted or flavored and can add tons of unwanted sodium, chemicals, or sugar to your diet. Always chose plain or unsalted nuts.
Both flaxseeds and chia seeds are great plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytoestrogens to lower inflammation and boost heart health.
Interestingly, a number of studies have shown that eating chia seeds can increase ALA in the blood. ALA is an important omega-3 fatty acid that can help reduce inflammation.
Your body can convert ALA into other omega-3 fats, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the omega-3 fats found in oily fish. However, this conversion process in the body is usually quite inefficient.
The High Fibers
4. Beans / Legumes
Beans, beans, and more beans! Beans really are the superfood of the plant world. From kidney beans to edamame, to green beans… legumes are not only delicious and filling but great at preventing high cholesterol.
Beans and legumes contain complex carbohydrates that help modulate blood sugar and prevent Type 2 diabetes, which greatly increases heart disease risk. Beans are also comprised of 18 percent fiber, much of which is soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol levels by forming a gel in your digestive tract that traps cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed.
Oats are the comfort-food nutrient powerhouse. Try toasting oats to top yogurt, salads or to add into a trail mix if you are not a fan of them cooked.
Oats contain several components that create heart-health benefits. The soluble fiber in oats is beta-glucan, which has been researched to help slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite. Bonus! But, beta-glucan can bind with cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestine and transport them through the digestive tract and eventually out of the body, helping keep your cholesterol low. Whole oats also contain plant chemicals called phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens that act as antioxidants to reduce the damaging effects of chronic inflammation that is associated with various diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Berries are not only chock full of heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber, like the categories above, but also are rich in antioxidants.
Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits, next to pomegranates. These antioxidants help to lower inflammation and decrease your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
7. Dark Leafy Greens
Popeye was right ― spinach packs a punch! So does kale, Swiss chard, collard/mustard greens, bok choy and the whole cruciferous family (that’s broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower). Use them in sandwiches and salads instead of lettuce.
Dark Leafy Greens are filled with mighty nutrients such as vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium, and fiber. 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.
8. Red and Orange Fruits and Veggies
Red, yellow, and orange fruits and veggies such as carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and butternut squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber, and vitamins to help your heart.
Red and orange fruits and veggies also all contain potassium. Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dietary potassium can lower blood pressure by blunting the adverse effects of sodium on blood pressure. They’re also all rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K is most well known as a clotting vitamin, because it is absolutely essential to proper blood clotting, a main function of your blood health and incredibly important as we age.
The Fun Ones
9. Dark Chocolate
Yep! Dark chocolate is good for your heart health. The higher the percentage of cocoa the better! (The fiber and protein increase with higher cocoa and the sugar decreases). If you are a fan of milk chocolate. start with at least 70% cocoa.
Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.
10. Red Wine
No, this isn’t an invitation to go binge drinking. But wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle with 3-6 servings weekly. (That’s glasses, not bottles.) Studies show that A 4-ounce glass of red wine (up to two for individuals 180 pounds and over and one for those under 180 pounds) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Research points to its abundant antioxidant content. Red wine is rich in polyphenols, which are powerful fighters of free radicals. One of these polyphenols, resveratrol, may help protect blood vessels from damage and prevent clotting. Resveratrol can also lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. A review examining the results of various studies involving red wine and the heart concluded that “red wine as a diet supplement might be beneficial for cardiovascular risk factors.” In other words, drinking red wine could help lower your chances of developing heart problems.
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