14 Amazing Heart Healthy Foods That Will Change Your Life
According to researches, nearly half of the adult population in the United States suffer from cardiovascular diseases. The main reason for most heart diseases is the bad diet that is full of trans fats and carbohydrates.
Changing the nature of your diet, to include heart healthy foods, can improve your heart health and reduce the possibility of many diseases like cancer, colon problems, brain problems and heart diseases.
A study was made in 2020 on the benefits of a plant- based diet to improve the heart health. It proved that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains; and eat less processed meats, red meats, salt and sugar…reduced the cardiovascular risk by 20%.
In additions to the plant based, healthy diet, researches have shown the importance of regular exercise in lowering cholesterol levels and have a life changing effect in general.
Heart diseases are considered the main reason for death in men and women in the United States. According to the american heart association, 9 out of 10 people consume too much sodium, more than their needed daily amount, and hence they increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart problems and strokes. Those people can benefit from a heart healthy diet in lowering their sodium intake by adding more healthy choices to their grocery list.
Here are the best 14 heart healthy foods to include in your diet:
1- Fatty Fish
Including seafood in your diet can provide a lot of omega-3, Iodine and other nutrients.
Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are heart healthy foods that can lower your cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
This will certainly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, brain problems, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.
Fatty fish can also improve your skin and hair condition, even if you choose canned fish, you can still get all those amazing benefits. If you don’t take enough seafood in your diet, fish oil supplements are great for getting your daily dose of omega-3.
Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, are very rich in fiber, minerals like iron, copper and magnesium; and protein. They also contain vitamins and walnuts are known to provide a good amount of omega-3 and other fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K.
They are known to enhance the brain function, reduce cholesterol levels and improve skin and hair condition.
They also help in reducing diastolic blood pressure, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress as they contain polyphenols that have an antioxidant effect. So, they are not just heart healthy foods, they can protect your brain and body cells from aging.
Almonds are incredibly nutritious. They contain a long list of vitamins and minerals, in addition to being a wonderful source of protein. They are very important for your heart and overall health; not to mention their great effect on hair too. Eating almonds regularly can help with weight loss, reducing belly fat, and also reducing the plaque build-up in your arteries.
3- Leafy greens
Leafy greens contain important vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of vitamin K, which promotes proper blood clotting and protects your vessels. Most leafy greens, especially lettuce, provide good amount of fibers, which aid in healthy bowel movement and prevent constipation.
Leafy greens also contain dietary nitrates that protect your blood vessels by promoting arterial elasticity and improving the function of the vessel inner cells.
This can certainly reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 16%.
4- Whole grains
Different studies have shown that including whole grains in your diet can reduce the risk of heart diseases and improve your health. Whole grains include brown rice, oats whole wheat, barley, buckwheat, quinoa and rye.
This list can provide your body with vitamins, omega-3, fibers, and protein.
An analysis of 45 studies showed that including at least 3 servings of whole grains in your daily meals can lower the risk of heart disease by 22%.
Another study showed that the same number of servings can decrease the systolic blood pressure, which is enough to reduce the risk of strokes by 25%.
Reading the labels of the products when you purchase grains can help you differ between the real whole grains and other tricky products. For example, “wheat flour” and “multigrain toast” both don’t contain whole grains. You have to find products with labels like “whole wheat” and “whole grain toast”.
Berries are not just heart healthy foods. They are the healthiest foods on this planet, not just for containing vitamins, minerals and fibers, but for playing a massive role in brain and heart health. Can you imagine that Acai berry is called brain food? That’s because Acai berry, within its beautiful color, contains a high ratio of antioxidants and other compounds that improve brain function and memory within short time.
Other berries, too, contain antioxidants, like anthocyanins, and other compounds that all work together to reduce oxidative stress resulting from free radicals. An example on these compounds is lycopene, found in tomatoes and red berries, and also CO-Q, found in raspberries; both are important for heart health and arterial function.
Interestingly, berries can reduce cholesterol, help in curing metabolic syndrome, control blood pressure, help with blood clotting problems, aid in weight loss, delay aging, promote flawless skin and reduce inflammation and systolic blood pressure. So, they are the most important heart healthy foods.
Avocados are an excellent source of potassium and monounsaturated fats. Both are linked to reducing heart diseases as healthy fats reduce cholesterol and potassium regulates the heart beat and stabilizes the blood pressure.
Getting at least 4.7 gm of potassium everyday can reduce your blood pressure to a ratio that lowers the risk of strokes by 15%.
One avocado contains 975 mg of potassium, which is 28% of the needed daily amount.
A study conducted on 18000 people, showed that eating one avocado per day helped with over weight and obese people. And also showed that a regular daily consumption of avocados reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome – something that leads to stroke – by 50%.
Many studies showed that beans are important heart healthy foods that can reduce the risk of many diseases, like chronic inflammation, high blood pressure and heart disease. The reason for that is beans contain certain type of starch that is resistant to digestion and is normally fermented by the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. This type of starch can reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.
8- Dark chocolate
Most studies made on dark chocolate proved a link between consuming it, at least twice a week, and a noticeable reduction in cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases.
Another large study showed that consuming dark chocolate 5 times a week can reduce the risk of chronic heart disease by 57%. Another study showed a 32% lower risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries in people who consumed it twice a week.
So we now are sure that dark chocolate is associated with lower risk of heart diseases, but we should keep in mind that those studies didn’t take other factors into account, like exercising and eating healthy foods such avocados, olive oil, nuts, fish, coconut oil, etc…
Dark chocolate normally contains antioxidants which are not just healthy for the heart. They benefit your body, hair, skin and brain; in addition to fighting inflammation, free radicals, and other factors that cause cell aging.
We should bear in mind the different between chocolate and dark chocolate. Most of those types in the markets are not dark chocolate and sometimes just chocolate flavor is added and mixed with very harmful compounds for commercial purpose. So when you consume these types you are just eating sugar and palm oil, and you have to search for brands that contain at least 70% of cocoa powder. You may buy raw, unsweetened cocoa powder and combine it with other heart healthy foods for greater results.
This beautiful red fruit is very rich in natural plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties. That colorful red pigment is very important in preventing heart diseases, and hence tomatoes are one of the best elements among other heart healthy foods.
Studies showed that people with low lycopene levels had increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. The antioxidant effect of lycopene neutralizes the harmful effect of free radicals and prevents the oxidative damage that leads to heart and brain diseases.
A study made on 50 overweight women showed that consuming tomatoes, at least 5 times a week, increased the good cholesterol levels. This can certainly reduce the bad cholesterol and remove plaque from the arteries.
Seeds like sesame, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp and chia seeds are heart healthy foods loaded with nutrients, fiber and omega-3. Different studies show the importance of adding seeds to your daily diet. They can prevent strokes, fight inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol and triglycerides.
For example, hemp seeds contain an important amino acid called Arginine. It can reduce certain inflammatory markers seen in blood tests. Arginine also plays an important role in improving blood circulation and arterial health. It is commonly taken by weightlifters to enhance their blood flow and vessel health. Flax and sesame seeds are rich in fatty acids and booth keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control where chia seeds can boost good cholesterol and lower triglycerides.
For centuries, garlic has been used as a magic treatment for almost everything. It is used for hair thickening, treating skin problems, treating inflammation, reducing blood pressure, improving the overall health, boosting immunity, lowering cholesterol and treating heart diseases.
It is used for everything thanks to its medical properties and a compound – called Allicin – that has multiple therapeutic effects.
One review compiled 39 studies and stated that garlic has a great effect in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure when taken as garlic extract doses of 600-1500 mg per day.
It can also reduce the risk of blood clotting and strokes as it inhibits platelet buildup.
One advice about consuming garlic is … the best way to consume garlic is to eat it raw and to increase the formation Allicin by crushing/mincing the garlic cloves and letting them sit for 10 minutes before cooking or adding to salads.
12- Olive oil
Olive oil is an essential element in Mediterranean diet. It is a magical source of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants that cure inflammation, promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The healthy fat content in olive oil is known to reduce the risk of heart diseases and high blood pressure.
Most studies done on olive oil proved its amazing benefits among the heart healthy foods. A study on 7216 people whose most fat consumption came from olive oil, showed a 35% lower risk of developing heart problems.
Another study on people who consumed more olive oil, showed a 48% lower risk of dying from heart diseases. Another study on people with higher olive oil intake, showed a significant improvement in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
So, by realizing the great effect of olive oil, we can take benefit from it by drizzling it on our cooked meals, cheese, salad, sauces, marinades and dips. This will be a fast and easy way to increase olive oil consumption, by mixing it with other heart healthy foods, and make it a healthy, daily habit too.
Edamame is premature/green soybeans that is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Along with other heart healthy foods, it is usually used in Asian cuisine and is known to be more nutritious than mature soybean.
Different studies showed the importance of edamame in reducing cholesterol and limiting heart problems due to containing isoflavones – a type of antioxidant flavonoids that are produced in legumes, especially beans.
11 studies showed that edamame can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5% and total cholesterol by 3.9%.
Another study showed that consuming 50 gm of soy protein everyday can reduce bad cholesterol by 3%.
Dietitians recommend including soybeans/edamame with other heart healthy foods in your daily diet. This will reduce the risk of heart disease as one study showed that reducing cholesterol levels by 10% can reduce the risk of dying from chronic heart disease by 15%.
14- Green Tea
Green tea – and matcha – is one of the best drinks that you can include in your daily diet, to enhance your overall health, boost your immunity and protect yourself from several health problems. It has been associated with many health benefits due to containing lots of polyphenols and catechins – types of antioxidant compounds. These antioxidant compounds fight the effect of free radicals that cause cell damage, and hence they can treat inflammation, promote healthy aging, and protect your heart and brain cells.
A review of 20-study showed that consuming green tea had a significant effect in lowering cholesterol.
Another study included 1367 people proved that green tea can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The same results were obtained by a small study on the effect of taking green tea extract for 3 months. It showed that green tea extract can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Now that you understand the importance of heart healthy foods, you can change your dieting options and make plans to help in treating any health condition. You can also improve any chronic health condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure, by including heart healthy foods in your daily meals. For example, you can make simple salads, drinks, breakfast recipes, main meals, smoothies, weight loss plans and other amazing ideas using these heart healthy foods.