Love Your Heart Healthy
Did you know that heart disease accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide (1). That’s one third of the human race people and it’s no joke!
You want to have a healthy heart for all of your life and what you eat plays a significant and most important role in keeping your beautiful heart healthy and keep you from the risk of heart disease.
You have the power to change the statistics for you alone by making healthy choices.
When you eat the right foods you can influence the risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation. Yes, you can lower your numbers simply by adding heart healthy foods to your life.
Here are 13 foods that you can incorporate into your daily life to keep your heart beating healthy for your lifetime.
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
The darker the better when it comes to leafy green veggies. My favorites are spinach, kale, swiss chard and then you have the beet greens and collard greens. They are all powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
So if you want the particulars, they are a great source of vitamin k which protects your arteries and promotes blood clotting because you don’t want to bleed to death. (2). They have also been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease stiffness of the arteries and improve the lining of the blood vessels.(3)
In one of my favorite studies of 29,689 Italian women it showed that a high intake of leafy green vegetables was linked to a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease (4). You know the Italians just love their greens!
If you are skeptical on eating greens then try the baby greens as they can be sweeter. I add them to my smoothies, my breakfast omelette, my soups and simply saute them in a bit of coconut oil. Yummy!
2. Whole Grains
When we talk about whole Grains it literally means the entire whole grain which includes the germ, endosperm and the bran.
Most manufacturers take these three components apart and sell them separately. Why because we like light and fluffy bread made from highly processed grains. Well the moment the grain is crushed the germ (the fat) starts to go rancid. They remove the fiber, the bran and sell it separately and you are left with a highly processed flour that turns to sugar when you eat it wreaking havoc in your body. Remember the more that food has been processed, the worse it is for you.
If you can tolerate eating grains and not gain weight then the best whole grains to eat are organic for sure to avoid the pesticides. Common types of whole grains that are good for your heart are brown rice, oat groats, quinoa, teff and buckwheat. These whole grains are higher in fiber which has been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol which in turn helps to decrease the risk of heart disease (5).
Purchase your grains either in the bulk section as the whole grain or in a package and the only ingredient should be the grain. “Oat Groats” for example. Don’t be fooled when a package says, “whole grain”. If it looks processed, then it is.
You want a healthy heart and the road there can be super sweet by incorporating delicious and organic berries such as: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. The are super charged with important nutrients to keep your heart pumping to the beat.
These delicious fruits of nature are so rich in antioxidants which protect your cells from oxidative stress and inflammation all of which contribute to heart disease (6).
Personally, I love adding berries to my smoothies, mix them with yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a dessert or I just eat them right from my strainer as a treat.
Avocados are simply a gift from nature that come complete with their own wrapper. They are one of the best sources of the heart healthy monounsaturated fats which have been linked to help lower cholesterol and you know the lower your cholesterol is the lower your risk for heart disease. (7).
People think they have to eat bananas to get their potassium but did you know that avocados provide 975 milligrams of it compared to 422 mg from a banana.
Did you know you can decrease your blood pressure through potassium rich foods?! Eating 4.7 grams of potassium per day can decrease blood pressure which is associated with a 15% lower risk of stroke (8).
5. Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Oh my favorite fish is a fatty one for sure. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are super rich with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively for their heart-health benefits.
Studies have shown that eating fatty fish decreased blood pressure, lowered total cholesterol and fasting blood sugars. (9).
If eating fatty fish isn’t your think, then try some fish oil supplements. Other Omega-3 supplements like krill oil or algae oil are heart healthy as well.
Walnuts are chock full of micronutrients like magnesium, copper and manganese as well as fiber (10).
Studies show that eating walnuts can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure which is super healthy for your heart.
I like to lightly toast my walnuts and then add them to my smoothies, to salads and you can even grind them up a bit and use them as a coating for fish and chicken vs bread crumbs.
7. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. It’s also full of love in my eyes.
I once met someone who said they didn’t like chocolate and I wasn’t sure if I believed them. I thought perhaps they simply haven’t tried the real chocolate, you know, the one from the cocoa beans. I love dark chocolate and eat it daily and I highly encourage you to do so as well.
Dark chocolate (80% or more) is full on antioxidants like flavonoids which boost your heart. I know if makes me super happy and in love every time I eat it. Personally I think chocolate lowers your stress which in turn is good for your heart.
Make sure your chose a high-quality dark chocolate that is 80% cocoa or more. Otherwise it may be full of sugar and do the opposite for your heart (11).
I’ve been eating tomatoes my entire life as my mom always made her pasta sauce and she jarred her own tomatoes. She still does.
The benefit of tomatoes is that they are full of a natural plant pigment called lycopene which is high in antioxidants (12). Lycopene has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as increase in HDL cholesterol.
Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, preventing oxidative damage and inflammation, both of which can contribute to heart disease.
Eat your tomatoes in your salads, stew them in soups, saute them with your greens or make a tomato sauce and pour it over your vegetables.
Almonds are my absolute favorite nut/food group/everything wonderful about nuts are all poured into the almond! I simply love them and eat them daily as I recommend you do as well. The are incredibly nutrient-dense, and are chock loaded with a long list of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to heart health.
They’re also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber, two important nutrients that can help protect against heart disease and have been linked to reduce cholesterol and belly fat (13).
Chia seeds are no longer just for your pet pottery head, they are a fabulous source of heart healthy nutrients including fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds, flax seeds and sesame seeds are included as well.
Studies have found that eating these seeds improve heart health by reducing inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
I add these seeds to baked goods, my smoothies, salads or smash them up and use them to crust fish or chicken vs bread crumbs.
Oh, the Italians have been using fresh garlic forever!!! Never used the jarred stuff as my mother would just not understand it. Furthermore, the jarred garlic may have flavor but the nutrients are ruined.
Garlic has been used as a natural remedy for so many ailments as it is antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial. Just eat a clove and see how even humans run from you.
Garlic has a compound called allicin which studies have shown help improve heart health as well as it has other therapeutic effects (In recent years, research has confirmed its potent medicinal properties and found that garlic can even help improve heart health.(15).
Remember to eat your garlic raw or crush it and let it sit for a few moments before cooking to release the allicin. Then cook it up and enjoy all the heart healthy benefits of yet another gift from nature.
13. Olive Oil
A definite staple in the Italian lifestyle. We eat it daily and on everything from salads to roasted or steamed vegetables to pickled eggplant. There are blue zones in Italy where people live to be over 100 years old and eating olive oil with it’s heart-healthy benefits are well documented.
Olive oil packed with antioxidants, and monounsaturated fatty acids which can relieve inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic disease (16).
Make sure you purchase high quality extra virgin olive oil in glass jars. The extra virgin means it’s the first pressing of the olives and is the richest in antioxidants. You want glass jars so not to leach plastic in the oil.
The Bottom Line
Remember you have the power to keep your body healthy and the best way to do that is to incorporate these 13 foods into your daily life.
Eat your way healthy as what you put on your plate influences just about every aspect of heart health, from blood pressure and inflammation to cholesterol levels and triglycerides.
Keep a healthy heart by walking and stretching daily as well as include these heart-healthy foods into your life so you can live your best life ever.
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