Food is the key to longevity, especially when it comes to your heart. Studies have shown that up to 70% of heart diseases can be prevented by making the right choices in food. As the body’s engine, there are a quite a few physical ailments that can damage the heart, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Keeping the heart healthy actually involves nourishing the entire body. So your best strategy is not just about sticking to a few healthy staples – your heart will thank you for mixing up and varying the items we share with you here.
Potatoes get a bad rap, but they aren’t actually a refined starch. They are full of potassium, which lowers blood pressure, and fiber, which lowers your risk of heart disease. Purple potatoes especially offer significant levels of antioxidants, but red and white potatoes are a close second. Potatoes are whole foods and as long as you don’t deep fry them, can be a healthy meal choice.
Wild salmon (not farmed)
Wild salmon is a great source for omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve the metabolic markers for heart disease. Salmon also has a high level of selenium, an antioxidant that offers cardiovascular protection. The catch is that this advice goes only for wild salmon, not farmed. The farmed version is full of antibiotics and other unnatural feed. It is also much more prone to contamination brought on by overcrowding than its wild counterpart.
It seems counterintuitive to think that meat could be good for your heart, but liver contains a huge range of nutrients, including protein, zinc, copper, iron, and vitamin C. A serving of about 3.5 ounces of liver has more than your daily recommended amount of vitamin B12 and six grams of healthy fat. It is one of the most well rounded sources of protein you can choose.
Nuts in general contain lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts in particular have folate, vitamin E, and fiber as well, all of which benefit heart health. In analysis, walnuts had the highest levels of antioxidants among popular nuts, which can lower cholesterol, conquer free radicals, and reduce inflammation. As long as you eat them unsalted, walnuts are a great choice for your heart as well as your brain – they are also known to help keep memory sharp.
It only takes a spoonful of chia seeds to reap the benefits. They are positively loaded with healthy stuff, including fiber, protein, omega-3s, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. They also contain some zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin B2. That’s a winning combination that is known to help reduce bad cholesterol and clear out plaque buildup. Chia seeds can be mixed into yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies, or sprinkled on salads.
This one is no surprise. Science has long shown that oatmeal is excellent for heart health. The soluble fiber in oats reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol levels for starters, but is also soothes inflammation and offers all the perks of whole grains in terms of lowering blood pressure and protecting against diabetes and weight gain. Steel cut and rolled oats are both great choices, but avoid instant or flavored oats because they are typically loaded with processed sugar.
Green tea is associated with many health benefits, including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. It also contains catechin and flavonoids, which are antioxidants that benefit the heart and may even reduce the risk of blood clots. Long used by Chinese herbalists for its medicinal benefits, the act of drinking hot green tea is soothing in itself. Stress is also bad for your heart, so enjoy a cup or two today.
This sweet snack has been known for quite some time to help reduce high blood pressure, which obviously has positive effects on heart health. Researchers believe the benefits are due to the high potassium content, but raisins are also packed with antioxidants that can boost your immune system. Additionally, raisins contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which means they can help to lower cholesterol levels. All around, raisins are a great snack.
Doctors recommend a diet rich in dark green veggies, but cauliflower also offers a ton of health benefits without any bitter aftertaste. It is full of antioxidants that reduce inflammation as well as fiber that helps to regulate digestion and eliminate excess cholesterol. Cauliflower contains allicin, too, which is a substance also found in garlic that reduces cholesterol levels. With a very mild flavor, cauliflower can be eaten raw, roasted, or mashed.
As long as you don’t peel them, apples offer a bunch of antioxidants, especially polyphenols, which have the benefit of keeping good and bad cholesterol levels in balance. Apples also contain fiber to help push out bad cholesterol, and pectin, which can actually block the absorption of cholesterol. An apple a day can reduce your LDL cholesterol by as much as 40%! But apples are not just good for the heart. They are also known to help control appetite, reduce cancer risk, and protect healthy lung function.
Just to drive home the point that heart-healthy foods are not necessarily tasteless and boring, here is a fun addition to the list. As long as you choose varieties that are at least 70% cocoa, dark chocolate helps to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow due to flavonols that relax arteries. It also contains flavonoids that can protect against environmental toxins and repair damage in the body. Avoid chocolates that contain palm oil and a ton of added sugar, but otherwise, feel free to indulge.
Heart-healthy foods can be delicious, too. For example, oatmeal serves as an excellent base for apples, raisins, or walnuts. Potatoes are a great side dish but can also be a main course, topped with the veggie of your choice. And what better way to start and end the day than with a cup of green tea? (Maybe a bit of dark chocolate would be preferred.) When you understand exactly what these heart-healthy foods are doing in your body, the motivation to consume plenty of them comes much more easily. Eat up!