Cardiovascular Health: A heart-healthy diet can help prevent the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries that can increase your risk of heart disease.
A healthy diet is also important for keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes in check.While many foods are good for your heart, Ferrara says it’s important to watch out for sodium, sugar and saturated and trans fats in processed, fried, and high-calorie foods.
Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. While factors like genetics and lifestyle choices play a significant role, a healthy diet can also contribute to promoting cardiovascular health. Incorporating certain foods in our diet can help maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels, among other benefits.
In this article, we will discuss some of the top foods that can promote cardiovascular health. Whether you are looking to prevent heart diseases or manage existing ones, these foods can provide you with the necessary nutrients to support your heart health.
1) Fatty Fish
Fish, particularly oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may lower your risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation in the body.
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish each week to reduce your risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death. Choose low-mercury types such as sardines, haddock and salmon.
Fish is a good source of protein and contains less saturated fat than meat. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which may prevent blood clots and stabilize dangerous heart rhythms.
Avocados are a delicious way to get more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which can help lower bad cholesterol levels and increase good ones. They’re also high in fiber, which helps move waste through your digestive system and reduces constipation.
In a recent study, consuming two or more servings of avocado per week was associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers also found that replacing some foods with avocado, such as butter or cheese, lowered the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers used data from 68,786 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 41,701 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who were free of cancer and coronary heart disease at the start of the study and then followed up for 30 years. They answered dietary questionnaires every four years and underwent health screenings.
3) Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that help to protect against chronic inflammation. It also helps to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, which is considered a risk factor for heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends that people eat dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet. Choose chocolate that has a 70% cocoa content or more and contains less sugar, saturated fat, and added ingredients.
It has been found that regularly consuming small amounts of dark chocolate can significantly decrease blood pressure, particularly in people with hypertension.
Flavanols, a type of molecule found in cocoa, are thought to improve blood flow and decrease triglyceride levels. This may be due to their ability to lower high blood pressure, platelet aggregation, and endothelial function, per some research.
Tomatoes are one of the top foods that can promote cardiovascular health. These bright red fruits are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Lycopene works by reducing the oxidation of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, which can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries.
Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Additionally, the high fiber content in tomatoes can help lower cholesterol levels and improve digestion. To incorporate more tomatoes into your diet, try adding them to salads, sandwiches, or pasta dishes. You can also enjoy them as a healthy snack with some hummus or guacamole.
5) Whole Grains
Eating whole grains – such as brown rice, barley and oats – may help protect your heart health, finds a new study. These foods are high in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals that improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In addition, they’re also good for your digestive system and help prevent constipation. Plus, they’re a great source of thiamin (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), niacin (Vitamin B3), folate (Vitamin B9), iron and magnesium.
The findings, published in Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, suggest that people should increase their intake of whole grains by two servings a day if they want to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), heart failure and stroke. The average American consumes just under one serving a day, according to Gaesser.
Vegetables are high in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. They’re also naturally low in saturated fat and sodium, two diet components linked to heart disease risk.
Often considered the cornerstone of a healthy diet, vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that help prevent disease. They’re also a rich source of potassium, vitamin C and folic acid.
The research was done using the UK Biobank, a prospective study of half a million adults that tracked their diet, lifestyle and medical and reproductive history for more than 10 years. It did not consider socioeconomic status or how vegetables were prepared, however.
Some vegetable types, such as leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and allium family bulbs, have been shown to have an inverse association with cardiovascular outcomes in observational studies. But the researchers note that these results may be influenced by limitations of these large-scale, long-term follow-up studies.
Fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals that help protect the heart. They are high in fiber, potassium and magnesium and can lower blood pressure.
They also contain flavonoids and antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress, which is linked to heart disease.
Eating a variety of fruits throughout the day is important because different types and colors have different beneficial plant chemicals. For instance, berries, such as blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins that can lower inflammation and improve heart health.
Bananas are another excellent choice for lowering blood pressure, and they are an easy way to boost your intake of potassium. In addition, they are an excellent source of vitamin B6 and C, and a one-cup serving of bananas provides more than one-third of your Daily Value for these nutrients.
8) Leafy Greens
Including leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard into your diet is a great way to increase your daily intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also provide a hefty dose of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones.
According to a recent analysis, people who regularly consume leafy greens are significantly less likely to develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetime. The team analyzed 13 studies that spanned more than a decade.
They found that nitrate-rich vegetables, including leafy greens and beetroot, are linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease later in life. The nitrate found in these foods is converted into nitric oxide, which relaxes and widens the blood vessels.
9) Olive Oil
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fat, which when substituted for saturated and trans fats helps to reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This type of fat helps to lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
In addition, olive oil has a large concentration of polyphenols that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds have also been found to help protect against oxidation of LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Swapping out margarine, butter, mayonnaise or dairy fats for olive oil can help lower your risks for heart disease and other diseases such as cancer and dementia. It is also important to note that olive oil should be eaten in moderation, since it can add to your daily calorie intake.
Nuts are full of heart-healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which lower cholesterol levels. They also contain dietary fiber, which makes you feel more full so you eat less.
Those aren’t the only health benefits you get from nuts, either: They have been linked to a lower risk of many types of cancer and are thought to promote antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These effects may be based on phenolic phytochemicals found in nuts.
A recent study found that people who ate nuts three times per week had a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation. Similarly, people who ate moderate amounts of nuts (up to 1-2 times per week) had a reduced risk of heart failure. This was a large prospective study of 61 364 Swedish adults that included information on nut consumption through food frequency questionnaires.
Maintaining cardiovascular health is essential for leading a healthy life. A balanced diet can help to promote heart health and prevent heart disease. Some of the top foods that are known to promote cardiovascular health include leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, berries, and whole grains.
Leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids that can help to lower triglycerides and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Nuts and seeds like almonds and chia seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats that can help to lower cholesterol levels. Berries like blueberries and strawberries are packed with antioxidants that can help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice are high in fiber and can help to lower cholesterol levels. In conclusion, incorporating these heart-healthy foods into your diet can help to promote cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
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