Your heart is the most important organ in your body, serving to pump blood and deliver nutrients, among other functions. Heart disease accounts for more than ⅓ of deaths worldwide and is often developed over time. Those over the age of 65 are more likely to develop heart disease than younger people. Fortunately, heart disease can be prevented and delayed by improving your diet and ridding it of saturated fats, sugars, and processed carbohydrates. Here are 12 foods you should be eating to improve the health of your heart and decrease your chances of developing a stroke, heart disease, or heart attack.
A healthy heart is one which can pump blood around the surrounding area and entire body effectively. When your heart is put under excessive stress and pressure, you can develop heart disease and an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. Heart disease is often caused by high cholesterol, which can be linked to consuming a diet high in saturated fat and sugar. To improve your heart health, it is best to stray away from these foods and instead opt for more vegetables and lean meats.
Certain foods have been found to improve heart health by decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, all of which have a profound impact on heart health. These foods include spinach, various berries, avocado, brown rice, and beans.
1. Spinach And Lettuce
Spinach and lettuce are two of the most popular leafy green vegetables, well known for their incredible fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. In particular, these vegetables are fantastic sources of vitamin K, which has been found to improve the protection of arteries and prevent blood clotting.
Multiple studies have found a noticeable link between increasing your intake of vitamin K and a decreased risk of developing heart disease. One study found that consuming just one cup of leafy vegetables per day can lower one’s risk of developing a form of heart disease by more than 25%.
Berries are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. They're exceptionally low in calories and high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Many berries have been associated with being beneficial for heart health. These include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, while reducing oxidative stress. The best berries for heart health include blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
3. Brown Rice
Many of the various nutrients in brown rice help keep your heart healthy and improve blood flow. Brown rice is a rich source of dietary fiber, which has been shown to reduce the risk of death from heart disease. Dietary fiber helps improve heart health by decreasing blood pressure and reducing inflammation in arteries around the heart. Brown rice also contains high levels of magnesium, which can help make you less vulnerable to heart disease and stroke.
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
One study looked at the effects of three cholesterol-lowering diets in 45 people with overweight and obesity, with one of the test groups consuming one avocado a day. The study found that those who consumed more avocados experienced significantly lower cholesterol levels than those who followed the diet that did not include avocados.
5. Fatty Fish
Fish are some of the most nutritious foods and contain high amounts of healthy fat and protein. A few of the most popular high fat fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines. These fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and high quality protein. The American Heart Association recommends that most people eat at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week. Additional research shows that fatty fish consumption may increase cognitive function, promote heart health, and decrease the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Most kinds of beans are high in minerals and fiber without containing the saturated fat found in some animal proteins. Eating beans as part of a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may help improve your blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease. Adding beans to your diet may help keep you feeling full longer, which can blunt your appetite for sugary and fatty foods that can hurt your heart.
Walnuts are just one of the many types of nut that can have significant benefits for heart and artery health. They are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a huge benefit on cardiovascular health. Walnuts are also able to reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals, unstable and highly reactive elements that can damage cells and inhibit the function of organs.
Like walnuts, almonds are high in healthy fats and helpful antioxidants. These fats can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of HDL cholesterol, high levels of which can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Almonds are also fantastic sources of fiber, which can help you feel full and encourage your body to burn fat.
9. Fish Oil
If you have a hard time stomaching the texture of fish, but still want to reap the benefits of its high fat content, look no further. Fish oil is a supplement designed to provide all the health benefits of fish without many of the aspects of eating cooked fish that some people don’t enjoy. OMega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been shown to play a protective role in fighting off heart disease. High fish consumption is also associated with a decreased risk of a variety of other conditions, including systolic blood sugar, depression, and mortality.
10. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate can be a fantastic dessert option for those looking to reduce cholesterol and heart disease risk because it combines tasty sugar with healthy fat. Dark chocolate is also high in several important antioxidants and has been found to decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack, and coronary artery disease if consumed in moderation (less than 5 servings per week).
Some types of chocolate are very high in sugar and calories, making it important to choose your chocolate carefully. When looking for a dark chocolate brand, we recommend selecting a bar that has a cocoa content of more than 70%.
Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties. These antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to the organs, especially the heart. Increasing your intake of tomatoes and products which contain them may have positive effects on blood pressure and blood lipid levels.
In fact, one study of more than 100 women found that eating at least one tomato each day increased levels of good cholesterol by more than 50%. Higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol can help remove excess cholesterol and plaque from the arteries to keep your heart healthy and protect against heart disease and stroke.
12. Sunflower Seeds
Multiple studies have shown that the healthy fats in sunflower seeds can lower risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce cholesterol. Sunflower seeds are a source of multiple healthy vitamins and minerals that can support immune system health and help ward off diseases.
Maintaining a healthy heart is a lifelong process that is heavily linked to your diet and food choices. Eating foods that are higher in saturated fat and sugar can put a strain on your arteries and contribute to heart attacks and stroke. To combat heart disease, we recommend eating foods high in healthy fats such as sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, beans, and brown rice.