Heart disease accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide. Diet plays a major role in heart health and impacts your risk of heart disease. Certain foods can influence risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation. When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, we hear a lot about what not to eat. But there are plenty of yummy foods that can be part of a heart-healthy diet
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are well-known for their wealth of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries. They are also high in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels. Some studies have found a link between increasing your intake of leafy green vegetables and a lower risk of heart disease.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively for their heart-health benefits. One study showed that eating fish over the long term was linked to lower levels of total cholesterol, blood triglycerides and systolic blood pressure.
Berries are packed with heart-healthy components, including phytonutrients and fiber. Berries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease. Studies show that eating lots of berries can reduce several risk factors for heart disease. Other studies support that eating berries is associated with reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure and body mass index.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. It’s also associated with a lower risk of developing calcified plaque in the arteries and coronary heart disease. Choose chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa that’s palatable to you because as the percentage of cocoa goes up, fiber and protein increase and sugar decreases.
Beans and lentils contain all sorts of heart-healthy nutrients. They are high in resistant starch and have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides levels, lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation. Multiple studies have found that eating beans can reduce certain risk factors for heart disease.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Low blood levels of lycopene are linked to an increased risk of a heart attack. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol can help remove excess cholesterol and plaque from the arteries to protect against heart disease.
Walnuts are a great source of fiber and micronutrients like magnesium, copper and manganese. Studies suggest that walnuts can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Olive oil is packed with antioxidants and rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Many studies have associated it with improvements in heart health. One study showed that a higher intake of olive oil was associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Green tea is brimming with polyphenols and catechins, which can act as antioxidants to prevent cell damage, reduce inflammation and protect the health of your heart. It has been associated with lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.
Whole grains include all three nutrient-rich parts of the grain: germ, endosperm and bran. Common types include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa. Studies show that eating whole grains is associated with lower “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as a lower risk of heart disease.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. Avocados are rich in potassium, a nutrient that’s essential to heart health.
Almonds are incredibly nutrient-dense, boasting a long list of vitamins and minerals that are crucial to heart health. Almonds are high in fiber and monounsaturated fats. Consuming them has been linked to reductions in cholesterol and belly fat. Research also shows that eating almonds is associated with higher levels of HDL cholesterol, which can help reduce plaque buildup and keep your arteries clear.
Seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds are great sources of heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Numerous studies have found that adding these types of seeds to your diet can improve many heart disease risk factors, including inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Garlic and its components have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. In recent years, research has confirmed that garlic can help improve heart health.
What you put on your plate can influence just about every aspect of heart health. Including heart-healthy foods as part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet can help keep your heart in good shape and minimize your risk of heart disease.
To learn more about a heart healthy diet or heart health in general, the providers at West Tennessee Medical Group Cardiology are here to help. Click Here for more information on clinic hours, location and to schedule an appointment.