Not all foods are made equal when it comes to eating. There are clear winners and losers when it comes to eating to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. We’re taking a closer look at heart-healthy foods and foods to avoid as part of our efforts to raise awareness about cardiovascular health and what we can do to minimise our risk of cardiovascular disease during heart health month.
Heart disease affects many American adults and is the country’s second-biggest cause of mortality. A diet strong in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in sodium, refined sugar, saturated, and trans fats are healthful and supportive of heart health, according to current data.
This translates to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish and shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetable oils in general (mainly, extra virgin olive oil). To be more specific, we’ll focus on the top 5 heart-healthy foods you should include in your diet to help maintain cardiovascular health!
1- Extra-virgin olive oil
Drizzle it over a salad or sauté a variety of bright vegetables; either way, this oil has a proven track record for heart health. Monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil can help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Antioxidants in extra-virgin olive oil act in your body to prevent damage from unstable molecules called free radicals, which can injure cells, including those that make up the walls of your arteries. According to Fung, when the artery walls are injured, fatty deposits are more likely to cling and form blood-blocking plaques. Keeping them healthy should therefore be a top focus.
2- Fish Oil and Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, have been widely examined for their heart-health advantages.
The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish each week (especially fatty fish). A serving is roughly 34 cups of flaked fish or 3.5 ounces cooked.
Interestingly, each 3.5-ounce (100-gram) reduction in weekly fish consumption was linked to a 19% increased risk of having one new heart disease risk factor, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity.
Another study found a relationship between long-term fish consumption and decreased total cholesterol, blood triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, and systolic blood pressure.
However, there is one caveat: you should avoid eating fish that have the highest risk of mercury exposure (such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish). Reduce your mercury intake by eating a range of mercury-free fish and shellfish (such as canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish).
Blueberries are one of the most potent disease-fighting foods available. That’s because anthocyanins, the antioxidant that gives them their dark blue hue, are present. These delectable treats are high in fibre and vitamin C and are accessible all year. Add them to your diet on a daily basis to improve your heart health. Here’s how to do it:
- Add fresh or frozen blueberries to your whole-grain cereal for added flavour, fibre, and heart-healthy antioxidants.
- For a healthful breakfast, add fresh, frozen, or dried blueberries to pancakes, waffles, or muffins.
- Eat them straight or combine them with other fruits for a delicious low-calorie, high-fibre fruit salad, dessert, or snack.
4- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Vitamin K is found in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens, and it helps protect your arteries and support good blood clotting. They’re also high in dietary nitrates, which have been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, and improve blood vessel cell activity.
According to an analysis of eight studies, increasing leafy green vegetable consumption was linked to a 16 per cent lower risk of heart disease. A high intake of leafy green vegetables was connected to a considerably decreased incidence of coronary heart disease in another study of 29,689 women.
Eat a lot of salads, add spinach to your daily omelette, and add dark leafy greens to your smoothies to get your greens.
5- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, which can aid improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Chocolate fans will be glad to learn that people who ate chocolate at least five times per week had a 57 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease than non-chocolate eaters, according to a big study.
According to another study, eating chocolate at least twice a week was linked to a 32% lower incidence of calcified plaque in the arteries.
Flavanols present in cocoa and chocolate have other possible effects on vascular health, according to the Cleveland Clinic, including decreasing blood pressure, increasing blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and clotting-prone.
It’s worth noting that these studies didn’t use candy bars laden with sugars and other artificial flavours, preservatives, or colours, but dark chocolate instead. So choose high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa level of at least 70% and consume it in moderation to get the benefits of its heart-healthy properties.