The heart is one of the most vital organs in our body. Taking care of it is essential for living a healthy life. Heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancers combined. Sounds scary, right? Something we often end up ignoring is that the diet you choose to have might end up weakening your heart, and make it more prone to diseases, hence, reducing your quality of life and shortening your life span. It can be tricky to make the right food choices, but it is definitely not impossible. Are you confused about what foods you should eat to keep your heart working well? We are here to help you out. In this article, we will be listing down foods you can incorporate in the heart-healthy diet that will be useful for you if you’ve been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or are simply looking to improve your heart’s health. Let’s start off with a general idea of what makes a heart-healthy diet.
What Makes a Heart-Healthy Diet?
Essentially, a heart-healthy diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, high-fiber, high-quality protein, and whole-grain foods, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It limits processed and preserved foods, unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats, sodium, added sugar, red meat, alcohol
How much you eat is also a component of a heart-healthy diet. It is important to control your portion size. Do not overload your plate and stuff yourself until you can’t breathe. Read on for a list of heart-healthy foods.
A nutrient powerhouse, oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, and also has omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It is not just filling, but it is also delicious and is comfort food for many people. For even better taste, you can add fresh or frozen berries on top of your oatmeal. This also makes it more heart-healthy. If you don’t enjoy cooked oats, you can toast them instead and top them up on yogurt or salads. Keep in mind that it is better to avoid instant oatmeal because it usually contains added sugars.
Blueberries are excellent for the heart. They are packed with heart-healthy phytonutrients, soluble fiber, potassium, folate, calcium, and magnesium, and help to dilate blood vessels and decrease blood pressure. The next time you feel like snacking, go for a bowl of blueberries instead of a bag of crisps. You can consume blueberries in many other ways too. Add them to your cereal, pancakes, or yogurt, or blend into a smoothie along with other healthy ingredients.
Flaxseeds lower blood pressure and significantly reduce the build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries. They are a good source of plant-based protein, which is a lot better for the heart than animal-based protein. They contain plant-based omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid, fiber, phytoestrogens, all of which boost heart health.
Omega 3 is extremely beneficial since it helps to lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels. It also decreases the risk of thrombosis and arrhythmias, both of which can lead to a heart attack.
You can have flaxseeds in many ways. You can have them in the ground or milled form. Add them to cereal, oatmeal, or blend into a smoothie and take in all the goodness.
4. Dark Chocolate
The good news is that you can treat yourself and take care of your heart at the same time. Several studies have proven that consuming chocolate daily is advantageous for your heart’s well-being. However, this applies to only dark chocolate, meaning chocolate that is made of 60 to 70 percent cocoa. The higher the cocoa percentage, the healthier it is for the heart.
Cocoa beans have a high flavanol content, which helps against high blood pressure, inflammation, and clotting. Dark chocolate will protect you against atherosclerosis by preventing two of the mechanisms that cause it. One is the stiffness of the arteries, and the second is white blood cell adhesion, which occurs when white blood cells stick to the blood vessels. Keep in mind that this does not mean you should consume a lot of milk chocolate and candy bars, since they are low in cocoa content and high in sugars.
5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Amongst the several kinds of olive oils, extra virgin is the healthiest. It is rich in non-saturated fat, which helps to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It is also a great source of polyphenols. This combination helps to lower inflammation and serves as an antioxidant. Incorporate this into your diet by substituting your salad dressing for it.
Spread some avocado on toast, you won’t just have a great snack at your hand, but also one your heart would thank you for eating. Avocados are packed with healthy fats, which lowers cholesterol. It also contains antioxidants and potassium. If you don’t want to have avocado on its own, blend it into some delicious guacamole.
Keeping your body active and moving by exercising is very crucial to maintaining heart health. However, eating the right foods is also critical for keeping your heart beating at its best. If you like our content and want to stay updated with more tips on staying healthy, subscribe to our newsletter.