Hey everybody, Mike here. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about one of the things that should be first and foremost in our approach to living a longer, healthier lifestyle, our heart health. For those of you who have had a chance to work with me, you know that one of the first things we discuss is how to go about improving our heart health and function. In a day and age where heart disease is the country's number one killer, I'd like to remind everyone that it is never too early to take action to improve our heart health.
Almost half a million men and women die from this disease each year. Luckily, lifestyle modification, including eating a plant-based diet rich in legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats is a great way to help prevent heart disease. Many vitamins and minerals are considered especially heart-protective.
Listed below you'll find 10 healthy foods that you may or may not have realized play such an important role in ensuring your heart's health. Enjoy!
Kidney Beans - All beans are excellent sources of soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol. Antioxidants help to protect the heart from free radical damage. Black and kidney beans are extremely high in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins.
Spinach - Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins C and beta-carotene. These powerful antioxidant nutrients help prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming plaque on artery walls. Spinach is rich in folate. Folate helps break down homocysteine, a harmful substance in the blood linked to heart disease.
Oranges - Oranges are full of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Also, the peel and pith of the oranges contain citrus flavanones (one of which is the phytonutrient compound hesperidin). Hesperidin has been shown to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Tuna - Tuna contains omega-3 fatty acids are special fats which help to thin the blood, reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids may also lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Another great choice is salmon.
Garlic and Onions - Garlic and onions contain a class of phytonutrients called Allylic sulfides. They help to raise HDL cholesterol, and lower blood fat (triglyceride) levels. In addition, they help smooth blood flow by preventing platelets from sticking together and forming blood clots.
Oatmeal - Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber (which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels). Oats also contain compounds called saponins, which bind cholesterol and carry it out of the body. Oats are rich in an antioxidant known as tocotrienol, which helps keep LDL cholesterol from sticking together and forming plaque on arteries.
Berries - Cranberries are rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant pigments that offer antioxidant benefits. One disease-fighting flavonoid, quercitin, may help to prevent damage to the linings of blood vessels and reduce the risk of stroke. Blueberries are rich in a class of phytonutrients called anthocyanins, which support the integrity of the vascular system.
Almonds - Nuts contain several nutrients that keep blood flowing well and arteries open. They are excellent sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that prevents LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming plaque on artery walls. Almonds are rich in calcium, vitamin E, magnesium and healthy fats, all of which are heart-healthy. Walnuts are another good choice.
Tea and Cocoa - Tea, especially green tea, is rich in polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the body. Among other things, polyphenols reduce the likelihood of LDL adhering to artery walls and protect the heart against oxidative damage. Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants as well that help keep blood vessels healthy.
Soy Foods - Soy foods, such as soybeans, may decrease LDL and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Soybeans are fiber-rich and provide omega-3 fatty acids (prevent blood platelets from becoming sticky and forming harmful clots). Tofu and soymilk are full of magnesium potassium and calcium, all important for regulating blood pressure.
- Top Heart-Healthy Foods: Best Foods for Cardiovascular Health; Jeanie Lerche Davis
- Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals, 7th ed; Karen Drummond and Lisa Brefere; 2010