By: Lance Kowlessar
Imagine if we lived in a world where frosted doughnuts, bacon cheeseburgers, and nachos were great for your heart; or if French fries, ice cream sundaes, and fried chicken made you shed pounds like a bride before her wedding day. We would always be able to indulge in whatever food we like, whenever we want, your health would only improve and the weight would only disappear. Unfortunately, the foods many of use crave aren’t things we should be eating for a healthy body. In reality we should be eating spinach, Brussels sprouts and cantaloupe around the clock – not as attractive to the most of us.
Good news or bad news first? Well here’s the bad news, heart problems and risk of heart disease is a worldwide problem, shortening the lives of many. The good news is that through the years, nutrition experts have come an extremely long way in determining what good fuel for hearts and cardiovascular systems is. Things like alcohol and fat aren’t the evil things doctors once thought they were. The main trick when dealing with unhealthier foods and drinks is to intake the right kinds of fat, and drink alcohol in moderation. There is no such thing as a magic food that will guarantee a healthier cardiovascular system, but adding specific foods to your diet on a regular basis can do a lot of good. If we keep our hearts and cardiovascular systems healthy, it acts as a domino effect making maintaining good shape easier.
Here are the Top 10 Heart Healthy Foods:
- Dark Chocolate
When dark chocolate is included in a healthy diet, it can help improve overall heart health, reduce LDL ( “bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure, and increase blood flow to the brain. It also may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, which could reduce diabetes risk.
- Olive Oil
Olive oil’s high level of monounsaturated fat may help lower blood cholesterol, and its antioxidants may help protect against some cancers and other chronic health conditions, as well as boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
This seedy fruit may lower cholesterol and improve blood flow to the heart in people with ischemic coronary heart disease. Pomegranate juice also may slow the growth of prostate cancer. It’s naturally high in polyphenol antioxidants, which can help your body’s cells resist damage from free radicals, which affect everything from aging to cancer.
The fact that avocados contain a good dose of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats makes them unique among fruits. Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help lower cholesterol. Avocados are a good source of potassium. An adequate intake of potassium can help ward off high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Salmon is a premiere source of omega-3 fatty acids. The body can’t produce these healthy fats, so it’s essential to include them in your diet. Thanks to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one type of omega-3s found in heart-healthy fish, eating fish may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, minimize symptoms of arthritis and inflammatory diseases, contribute to healthy skin and hair, and help with depression. If salmon doesn’t suit you, get your omega-3s from fish oil, almonds, walnuts, or flaxseed.
Beans, beans, the powerful fruit. The more you eat…the healthier you are. Beans, including garbanzo, white, black, red, and navy, are naturally low in fat and contain no saturated fat, trans fats, or cholesterol. They are high in protein, fiber, iron, folic acid, and potassium. They give you protection against heart disease and certain cancers. Studies also suggest eating beans may help manage diabetes and reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
When you eat pumpkin, your body converts some beta-carotene to vitamin A. This antioxidant vitamin helps prevent some types of cancer and atherosclerosis. Pumpkin also provides a healthy dose of vitamin C and potassium, both of which can help counteract the effects of sodium, which is particularly important if you have high blood pressure.
- Whole Grain
The soluble fiber contained in barley and other whole grains helps prevent the cholesterol in the foods you eat from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Eating just one daily serving of whole grains may help prevent high blood pressure and eating more than one could decrease that risk even more.
Mushrooms are loaded with a potent disease-fighting antioxidant called ergothioneine. This antioxidant helps cells in the body ward off damage from dangerous oxygen molecules called free radicals, which may play a role in serious illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Mushrooms also are a good source of potassium, which may cut the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Tea, whether hot, cold, or infused into foods, has the power to keep hearts healthy. Studies have shown that regular tea consumption has a long list of benefits. It helps prevent cancer and heart disease; it may reduce the risk of stroke, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes; and has antioxidants that protect the body from the effects of aging.
Pertaining to this list, most people should be aware that a whole-foods approach to eating is the healthiest way to go. What is meant by whole foods is that, it is best to eat the foods above in its most natural state; try not to add too many extras. This way you get the whole nutrients of the foods, without adding any extras.
Also make sure to stay away from processed foods, and highly-saturated foods. By eating for a healthy heart, your workouts will only become more productive, and more effective. You will also notice an improvement in your daily activity, for a healthy cardiovascular system allows you to keep going for longer (like the Energizer Bunny).