Learn how these heart-healthy foods improve the health of your heart

heart healthy foods

The heart is one of the organs in your body whose role cannot be jettisoned. This post outlines how these heart-healthy foods improve the health of your heart. With the statistics on heart-related diseases on the rise, your heart may not be safe. Most of these diseases associated with the heart arise from the kinds of food you eat and your physical activity level.

Exercise is very good for building cardiovascular endurance and the overall maintenance of a healthy heart. But what if you could eat in a manner that would protect your heart in addition to exercising daily?


Learn more about these foods below.


Fish


Fish is a rich source of protein and it is low in saturated fats (the kind of fats which are known to increase blood cholesterol level). Fishes such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to reduce the level of triglycerides slowing the rate of fat layer formation in the blood vessels, they also reduce the risk of abnormal heartbeat which could lead to sudden death, lower risk for high blood cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and decrease the chance of having type-2 diabetes (insulin resistant diabetes).

Consumption of at least 2 servings (about 57 grams or of a cup of flaked fish) of oily fish per week would provide enough omega-3 fatty acids to help protect your heart. People with cardiovascular diseases are advised to eat more servings of fish to help control their condition. Research has shown that people who frequently eat oily fish, fruits and vegetables live longer.

Tomatoes


Lycopene is a natural chemical which gives tomatoes it's red color. This compound is known to have antioxidant properties. One of the benefits of this property of antioxidant is its healthful effect on the heart. Fresh tomatoes due to their lycopene content have been found to help lower blood cholesterol level and prevent clumping of platelet cells in the blood vessels (cells present in the blood which help to stop bleeding when there is a cut) which could lead to debilitating heart problems. The antioxidant activity of lycopene in tomatoes have heart-healthy effects.

Also, other naturally occurring chemicals have been found in tomatoes which may boost your heart’s health. One of such naturally occurring chemicals is vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which may protect the heart against cardiovascular diseases. Findings from some studies suggest that vitamin C may reduce the risk for some cardiovascular diseases.

Dark Chocolate


There are different types of chocolate. Those with higher cocoa solids tend to possess more polyphenols. These polyphenols are known to offer health benefits to those who consume them. The hearty benefits of chocolate are offered by the dark type because this type contains more cocoa solids; usually, at least 70% cocoa solids.

Dark chocolate contains polyphenols which help reduce blood pressure, enhance the flow of blood through the blood vessels and prevent the damage of cells, thereby protecting the heart. Dark chocolate is also known to possess certain components which have some positive effects on the brain as well.

Oats


Fiber is an important component of food which has been found to lower blood cholesterol in countless studies. Oats and oats products contain a specific type of fiber which is very effective at reducing blood cholesterol level.

The type of fiber in oats known as beta-glucan is even used for the treatment of high blood cholesterol. People with high blood cholesterol level may eat oats and oats products as a dietary means of controlling their blood cholesterol level.

Blueberries


Among the common food sources of antioxidants, blueberries are known to be the chief of them all; it is packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals which protect cells of the body from damage, protect against certain diseases such as heart diseases, skin problems, and cancers. The chemical that gives blueberries their natural color; anthocyanin, is a strong antioxidant which protects the cholesterol in the body particularly the blood from oxidative damage.

A study revealed that a 75-gram serving of blueberries consumed after a high carbohydrate, low-fat breakfast increased protection against oxidative damage after 3 weeks. This activity of the antioxidant in blueberries is a vital mechanism for preventing heart-related diseases. Additionally, regular intake of blueberries has been found to reduce blood pressure; an important determinant of risk for heart diseases. You can put these in your yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies and enjoy their benefits.

Asparagus


This is an excellent source of vitamin B1, B2, and folic acid. Asparagus is also a rich source of niacin, choline, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. These vitamins play a critical role in the regulation of homocysteine (an amino acid whose high concentration in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease).

Further, a 100-gram serving of asparagus contains a considerable amount of soluble fiber. Intake of soluble fiber has been proven in many studies to help reduce blood cholesterol leading to a reduced risk of heart diseases. The antioxidants present in asparagus also contribute to the benefits to the heart.

Coconut (Coconut oil and coconut water)


Coconut is more than just a tropical fruit; it is loaded with so much nutritional and health benefits. Its edible products have been proven to possess healthful effects on the body. Coconut water is a clear, naturally flavored drink/juice which has a sweet and astringent taste. The juice contains a high amount of potassium, a mineral which when consumed together with low sodium intake could decrease blood pressure. Also, some studies suggest coconut oil helps to reduce total lipids in the blood.

The oil could also be used to reduce the number of calories supplied by cooked white rice. Although coconut oil contains saturated fatty acids, the kind of saturated fats in coconut oil are short chain fatty acids which have been found to reduce blood cholesterol level. All of these contribute to the positive effect on the health condition of your heart.

Cauliflower


Like many other vegetables, cauliflower contains antioxidants. Beyond the antioxidant content is allicin, a naturally occurring chemical which helps to reduce cholesterol levels, aids blood flow and reduces the risk of heart attacks. Cauliflower is also high in fiber; a critical dietary solution for high blood cholesterol. Additionally, this vegetable contains a fair amount of potassium; a mineral which could reduce blood pressure.

Lemon


Lemons are sour and are known to have several effects on the body. An often less spoken about the effect on the body is its effect on the heart. The effect of lemon on the heart is linked to three components of the fruit; vitamin C, fiber, and hesperidin. Vitamin C has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease mainly due to the antioxidant activity of vitamin C. Lemon also contains a significant amount of fiber.

Fiber is known to reduce blood cholesterol levels; a major risk factor for heart diseases. Hesperidin and other compounds found in citrus have been reported to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. If lemon is too sour for you, you may go with oranges but lemons contain a higher amount of vitamin C; a strong shield against stroke.

Walnuts


This nut is full of polyunsaturated fatty acids; the kind of fats that are good for your heart. It is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and vitamin E. These nutrients are very necessary to maintain a healthy heart. It is recommended that you eat walnuts unsalted as salting may buffer out their heart-healthful benefits.

Spices


Several natural spices contribute in diverse ways to the health of consumers. Among these, garlic, cinnamon and turmeric are notable for their effect on the heart. Garlic contains a high amount of a chemical called allicin which helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduces the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels. This is good for the heart because blood clots could clog the heart and/or the blood vessels and cause fatal heart problems. Cinnamon is good for the heart because of its high antioxidant content.

A study which investigated the antioxidant activity of 26 spices found cinnamon to be among those that have the highest antioxidant activity. This enables cinnamon to contribute positively to the health of the heart by protecting its cells from damage. Turmeric, the main component of curry powder and the one that gives curry powder its yellow color is also rich in antioxidants, making it good for the heart.

Avocado


Avocado is a good source of vitamin K and folic acid. The natural component of avocado which makes it good for the heart is the monounsaturated fats it contains. The monounsaturated fats help to reduce blood cholesterol level as well as the formation of blood clots. It is important, however, to note that avocado is high in calories so you have to be very moderate in your consumption.

Coffee


Very well-known for its caffeine, coffee is often side-lined when healthy foods are mentioned. But studies show that coffee is high in antioxidants. The import of antioxidants in heart health cannot be overstated. Coffee is known to be the largest food reserve of potent antioxidants. Beyond having a high content of antioxidants, coffee contains some of the antioxidants with the highest bio-availability (easily digested, absorbed and used by the body).

So if you’re a coffee lover like I am, you are doing your heart a great service by drinking coffee. Also, it has been found that up to 3 cups of coffee a day improves brain health and helps to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of studies are on-going to further establish the positive effect of coffee on the heart.

Watermelon


Watermelon contains about 92% water, nonetheless, as part of the heart-healthy foods, this fruit is filled with vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, lycopene, amino acids, and potassium.

Watermelons are free of fat, with a very low sodium content; good indicators of a food good for the heart. This fruit contains citrulline, a chemical which is converted to the arginine (an amino acid). Arginine aids the flow of blood improving circulation and enhancing heart health. The lycopene level in watermelon is one of the highest in foods enabling the fruit to protect cells from damage and reduce the risk for heart diseases according to a research conducted at Purdue University.

Also, a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that some components of watermelon could reduce blood pressure in obese prehypertensive middle-aged adults. This is good news for watermelon fanciers.

Almonds


For people who do not like the bitter flesh of walnuts can make do with almonds. Just like walnuts, almonds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. The presence of these fatty acids in almonds enable them to prevent blood clotting in the blood vessels easing blood flow. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to lower cholesterol level in the blood. Munching on some almonds promotes good heart health.

Grapefruit


Grapefruit is another great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants. Further, grapefruits contain a strong combination of nutrients and phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants) which are good for the heart: fiber, vitamin C, potassium, lycopene, and choline. This blend of nutrients and phytochemicals helps the fruit to maintain a healthy heart as each of the nutrients mentioned play different roles in ensuring normal blood cholesterol level, normal blood pressure, no formation of blood clots in the blood vessels and ease blood flow.

Soy milk


Rich in niacin which eases blood circulation, soy milk is a low fat zero cholesterol beverage which helps to reduce blood cholesterol level due to its rich isoflavone content. In 2006 scientific advisory experts pointed out that many soy products may have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health due to their high content of fiber, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fats and low saturated fat content. So the next time you think of drinking milk, you may consider drinking soy milk.

Broccoli


Even though broccoli is quite comparable to cauliflower, it is often considered as great heart-healthy food since it’s a one-stop shop for fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is also rich in antioxidants. According to researchers at the Imperial College of London, sulforaphane; a chemical found in broccoli may prevent inflammation of blood vessels and also prevent the formation of plaques in the blood vessels which may lead to the hardening of the blood vessels. This reduces risks associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Olive oil


The oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree which is common in the Mediterranean region. Olive oil forms part of the Mediterranean diet. It has been found that people who consume olive oil and the Mediterranean diet as a whole generally live longer and have lower risks of heart diseases than people who consume other types of diets.

Olive oil is good for the heart because of its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids. This type of fatty acid reduces blood clot formation, the level of blood cholesterol and protects blood vessels. All of these contribute to a good heart health. It is good then to substitute some of your cooking oil with olive oil.

All these heart-healthy foods play crucial roles in ensuring your heart is at its peak due to the nutritional benefits of the vitamins, minerals, the kind of fats (unsaturated fats), fiber, antioxidants and other chemical components which occur naturally in these foods. Other factors such as exercise also have a strong effect on the health of your heart.
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