Heart-Healthy Foods to Eat for a Strong and Healthy Heart
If you’re looking to keep your heart healthy and strong, then you’ll want to make sure you include these heart-healthy foods in your diet on a regular basis.
Many people are surprised by how much their diets can affect their hearts, but there are plenty of foods that can lower the risk of heart disease and help prevent other heart problems, such as high blood pressure and heart failure.
Take a look at these heart-healthy foods and learn how to incorporate them into your diet today!
A natural grain, oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, which helps control cholesterol levels by binding with bile acids. The soluble fiber found in oats has also been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
Choose steel-cut oats over instant oats, as they have not been rolled or flattened, keeping all of their beneficial nutrients intact. If you can’t stand eating it plain (I’m allergic so don’t), try adding fruit or spices like cinnamon. Oats are good for your heart!
Dark, leafy greens—such as spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens and Swiss chard—contain vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin K is especially important since it helps maintain good bone health and promotes calcium absorption.
Greens are also rich in folate. Folate is necessary for making new cells. This nutrient keeps your heart strong by preventing hardening of your arteries (atherosclerosis) that can occur due to inflammation in your blood vessels.
Vitamin E: One of vitamin E’s main functions is helping cell membranes work properly. The membranes of your heart cells contain cholesterol so having too much or too little cholesterol affects how well those cells function.
Vitamin E also plays an important role in protecting your heart from free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage healthy cells. Antioxidants like vitamin E neutralize free radicals before they cause harm.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides, which is one of several types of fat found in your blood.
High levels of triglycerides increase your risk for cardiovascular disease because they clog up arteries and prevent them from functioning properly.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce triglyceride levels significantly compared with omega-6 fatty acids found in most foods today like vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Fish and lean meat
Aim to get at least two servings of fish per week, and three servings of lean meat. Fish like salmon, tuna and halibut are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk of developing plaque buildup on your arteries (hardening of the arteries).
Red meat is also high in zinc, which prevents LDL from oxidizing—the first step in plaque formation. Aim for an organic grass-fed source when possible. Grass-fed beef has more vitamin K2—an antiinflammatory that protects against heart disease.
It also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to help prevent coronary artery disease. Also look for pastured eggs, as they contain more vitamins A and E than conventional eggs. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, both important antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular disease.
Organic vegetables: Most vegetables are packed with fiber, vitamins C and E, folate, potassium and magnesium—all nutrients that promote cardiovascular health. To keep your blood pressure low, aim to eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables daily.
Broccoli is one of my favorites; it’s packed with nutrients like beta-carotene (vitamin A) and fiber while being low in calories! Some other great choices include kale, spinach or Brussels sprouts.
These are packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, antioxidants and even magnesium. They also tend to be low in calories—perfect if you’re trying to lose weight.
Walnuts, almonds and pistachios are especially heart-healthy nuts. Just watch your portion sizes: One cup of nuts is roughly equal to one serving size of vegetables or grains.
If you want to eat more than that (which isn’t a bad idea), just make sure you spread out your servings throughout the day so your body has time to digest them properly. A good rule of thumb is to aim for about two handfuls per day—that’s less than 200 calories total! And remember:
Nuts aren’t just great as snacks; they can add crunch and flavor to all kinds of dishes, from salads and stir fries to pasta sauces and desserts.
Fruits and berries
Research shows eating berries helps keep your heart healthy because they’re high in antioxidants. They also have other beneficial nutrients, including vitamin C and manganese. Berries are low in calories, so you can eat them even if you’re watching your weight.
You’ll find these tasty fruits at your local supermarket or farmers market, usually year round.
They come in many colors, but most common types include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other great choices include goji berries, mulberries and acai berries.
Eating foods made from whole grains, like brown rice, oats, whole wheat breads and pastas, can reduce your risk of heart disease. These foods are high in fiber. Fiber is one type of carbohydrate your body can’t digest, so it travels through your system undigested.
As it passes through your body, fiber helps keep digestion regular by moving food more quickly through your colon.
This helps prevent constipation—and having a bowel movement is another way you can lower your blood pressure! Whole grains also contain lots of vitamins B and E; they help with lowering cholesterol levels while keeping good cholesterol (HDL) high.
And when you eat foods that have healthy fats in them, like nuts or seeds, it lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL). So if you want to protect yourself against heart disease, make sure at least half of what you eat every day comes from whole grains. It’ll help keep your heart strong and healthy!
Herbs and spices
Choosing fresh herbs and spices instead of processed foods is one easy way to help your heart. Research shows that cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, peppermint, garlic, ginger and oregano may reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol.
Studies also show that cardamom extracts can reduce triglycerides in people with metabolic syndrome. However, herbal supplements have not been thoroughly studied.
Make sure you consult with your doctor before using any herb or supplement—especially if you’re taking other medications—since herbs can interact with some drugs. In addition to using spices in cooking, try adding them to water or tea when you’re dining out;
many restaurants offer healthier options than those on their menus. For example, ask about salt use and request low-sodium broth for soups.
Natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.
These sweeteners do not spike blood sugar or insulin, making them an excellent alternative. They also have lots of nutritional value (for instance, honey is high in antioxidants).
Some people use stevia as a sweetener because it is calorie free. However, I recommend that people avoid stevia as it has been shown to cause problems in certain individuals. Another great choice is xylitol—it’s natural, made from birch bark or corn cobs,
but tastes just like sugar. Xylitol inhibits bacteria growth in your mouth which helps keep teeth clean and fights gum disease. It does not feed candida yeast infections either. It can be found in many foods including gums, candies, ice cream, yogurt and baked goods.
It does raise blood sugar levels so if you are diabetic you will need to monitor your intake of these foods accordingly.
Coconut palm sugar is another natural sweetener that comes from sap extracted from coconut trees and has a low glycemic index (GI), meaning it doesn’t raise blood glucose levels much at all.