Food is directly responsible for increasing the risk factors for heart disease in America and the world at large. Nutritionists and dieticians suggest that eating certain foods daily can greatly help to reduce the chances of developing heart disease. Heart disease is caused when fatty deposits (plaques) clog the artery walls making it highly likely to form a blood clot. These blood clots block the flow of blood through the arteries, cutting off the oxygen supply to the heart. As a result, the heart gets damaged or dies. Heart disease, which is among the leading causes of deaths in the U.S., can be managed if we make better and healthier food choices.
Julie Zumpano, RD, LD, a dietician at the Cleveland Clinic says that we should “try to eat foods that are in their natural form, as they come from the ground.” If you’re wondering which heart-healthy foods you can eat to protect your heart, here’s a list you should focus on.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables and fruits, apart from being low in calories, are also rich sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They form healthy snacks and most of them can be eaten raw, thereby supplying their nutrients in full. Asparagus, broccoli and spinach are especially great vegetable choices for their heart healthy nutrients.
Having fresh fruits and vegetables close will help you avoid eating higher calorie foods and snacks like meat and cakes. Keep a bowl of fruits and vegetables in the kitchen table where you can easily see and remember to eat them. Likewise, only insist on fresh fruits and veggies instead of canned fruits, frozen fruit, or fried vegetables to avoid the unhealthy fats and other harmful chemicals used in their processing.
When it comes to healthy fats, fish tops this list. Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids which are known for their heart-health benefits. Numerous studies show that eating fish for an extended period of time lowers levels of total cholesterol, fasting food sugar, systolic blood pressure, and blood triglycerides. Studies also show that fish oil supplements improve arterial function, thus helping to reduce the risk factors for heart disease.
The advantage of eating whole grains is that you get the whole nutrients which are stored in the germ, endosperm, and bran. Some common examples of whole grains include buckwheat, barley, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, rye, and oats. Additionally, whole grains are fiber-rich, which has been shown to reduce ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. More studies continue to prove that incorporating whole grains in your diet several times a week can greatly benefit your heart health.
Sprouted garlic is that old garlic bulb with green shoots that have started to emerge from the cloves. Most of us usually throw this away. But scientists have discovered that it contains a heart-healthy antioxidant which can help lower your risks for heart health. Also known as kyolic garlic or aged garlic extract, its supplements are odorless and research shows that participants who took four pills a day registered a reduction in the buildup of plaque in their arteries.
Flaxseeds and Chia Seeds
Flaxseeds and chia seeds are the richest plant sources of omega-3 fats. They are also fiber-rich with just one tablespoon supplying three grams of fiber with only 55 calories. These seeds help to reduce inflammation, prevent diabetes and lower the risks of heart disease. They also raise the levels of ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol, which is a heart-healthy fat. Use chia seeds and flaxseeds as they are by adding them to yogurt or smoothies.
Legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol. They are rich sources of protein, fiber, and polyphenols, an antioxidant, which are good for the heart as well as general health.
Nuts come in different sizes, colors, and shapes. Ranging from almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios and pecans, nuts are full of fiber, antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals that put them ahead of the pack as healthy snacks that are beneficial for your heart.
We normally use it in most of our cooking. But did you know that tomatoes are good for your heart? They are rich in vitamin C, folate, choline, potassium, and fiber, all of which are essential for heart health. Potassium also helps with bone and muscle health and the prevention of kidney stones.
Cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, can help protect your cardiovascular health. One study, where participants were observed for nine years, found out that women who ate one to two high-quality chocolate servings per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart disease compared to those who didn’t take cocoa. Cocoa, which can be taken as a hot drink or eaten in dark chocolate, contains flavonoids and polyphenols, anti-inflammatory agents that protect your heart. However, not all chocolates are healthy, and you should only opt for dark chocolate with at least 60 percent cacao.
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