11 Heart-Friendly Foods You Should Add To Your Diet

One in four deaths in the United States is a result of some heart disease.

Heart diseases as the leading cause of death are projected to affect more than 130 million adults in the US by the year 2035. These number would need an estimated 748.7 billion dollars for direct medical costs.

If we plan to focus on preventing the risk factors for heart diseases, we can significantly reduce the expected 130 million new cases of heart disease. Major risk factors include diabetes, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

A simple approach to protect the heart from diseases is to add heart-healthy food to our diet and avoid foods bad for the heart.

11 Heart-Healthy Foods

11 heart-friendly foods you should add to your diet.

“You can definitely reduce your risk of developing the cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day,” according to Julie Zumpano, a dietitian at Cleveland Clinic.

To help keep your heart healthy, we have compiled for you a list of heart-healthy foods.

1. Oatmeal

Your heart would definitely shout hear, hear for anything that has low cholesterol and high soluble fiber. Oatmeal easily fits into this category. It acts as a sponge in your digestive tract and soaks up the cholesterol before it absorbs into your bloodstream.

Just make sure you opt for oats, not the instant oatmeal packed with sugar.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown pasta, brown rice, rye, barley, and brown bread are also heart friendly.

Many studies have discovered the benefits of whole grains in heart health.

An analysis of multiple research studies was conducted to measure the dose-response relationship between whole grain consumption and risk of heart diseases. The results showed that the intake of whole grains reduces the risk of heart diseases. These findings also support the dietary recommendations regarding inclusion of whole grains to a balanced diet.

You can easily switch between these varieties to satisfy your taste buds.

2. Berries

Raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are packed with anthocyanins (antioxidants). These are the compounds responsible for red and blue color of plant foods, but they may also help control the blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and dilate blood vessels; both have a positive effect on heart health.

Studies repeatedly show that eating berries is linked to better heart health. A 2013 study conducted on female participants concluded that eating three servings of berries (blueberries and strawberries) per week lowers the risk of heart attack by 32% as compared to those who eat less.

berries for heart health

Berries also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL: low-density lipoproteins).  An analysis of studies showed that berries reduce

  • Bad cholesterol
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Inflammation
  • Systolic blood pressure

The best thing about berries is their deliciousness. Anyone can enjoy them, even someone with diabetes.

Related article: Diabetic Diet – Put These 13 Foods On Your Plate – P.S. Avoid These 13 Foods  

3. Nuts

Nuts make a necessary component of your heart healthy diet plan. A variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios, contain heart-friendly fiber and nutrients.

Most people avoid nuts due to their high-calorie content. However, they are an excellent choice when eaten in moderation.

We’ll describe walnuts and almonds in greater detail because of their special benefits to the heart,

Walnuts

Packed with fiber, copper, manganese, and magnesium, walnuts are a great way to protect your heart against diseases. Incorporating just a few servings to your diet can significantly reduce total cholesterol.

A study of 365 participants showed that individuals who added walnuts to their diet have a decline in LDL and total cholesterol as compared to those who didn’t add walnuts to their diet.

In another study, eating walnuts was associated with up to 16% reduction in bad cholesterol and 2-3 mm reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

Almonds

Almonds contain a long list of nutrients necessary for your heart health. They contain monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which have been found to exert positive effects on the lipid profile of children with high cholesterol. Consuming MUFAs is also protective against metabolic syndrome, a combination of disorders that increase the risk of heart diseases.

A six-week randomized controlled trial on the effects of almonds on cardiometabolic risk showed that eating 43 grams of almonds reduced LDL cholesterol and belly fat, two important risk factors for heart diseases.

Almonds are nutrient-dense food. To calculate your daily calorie requirements to prevent going overboard.

4. Dark Chocolate

While milk chocolates and other attractive sugar bars don’t make the best foods for your heart, dark chocolates do.

You’d be glad to know that many studies have associated dark chocolate consumption with better heart health. A 2012 study showed that a daily intake of dark chocolate may reduce stroke and minor heart attacks.

Dark chocolates are rich in cocoa, which may help reduce the blood pressure. This link between cocoa and blood pressure was discovered in the study of Kuna Indians, a tribe on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. Hypertension in these individuals was close to non-existent, even when the salt intake was high.

When the Kuna migrated to the urban areas and changed their dietary patterns, the incidence of high blood pressure increased among the group. This new rise in the blood pressure cases was then investigated, and it was found that the Kuna used to have a high intake of cocoa as a beverage, which had a protective role against blood pressure.

A research study showed that individuals who ate dark chocolate five times a week had a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease as compared to those who didn’t eat dark chocolate.

While buying a dark chocolate, make sure it has a high percentage of cocoa. A high-quality dark chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher contains most flavanols.

5. Garlic

Owing to its medicinal properties, garlic has been in use for centuries.

Medical research has confirmed in the recent years the benefits of garlic in improving heart health. The benefits of garlic are mainly attributed to the compound, allicin.

In one study, taking garlic extract in doses of 600–1,500 mg daily for 24 weeks was as effective as a common prescription drug for reducing blood pressure.

Other studies have found that garlic extract can inhibit platelet buildup, which may reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.

One review compiled the results of 39 studies and found that garlic can reduce total cholesterol by an average of 17 mg/dL and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 9 mg/dL in those with high cholesterol.

6. Fish

Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week.

In one study in 324 people, eating salmon three times a week for eight weeks significantly decreased diastolic blood pressure.

Each 100-gram decrease in weekly fish consumption was associated with a 19% higher likelihood of having one additional risk factor for heart diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.

If you don’t eat much seafood, fish oil is another option for getting your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce blood triglycerides, improve arterial function and decrease blood pressure.

7. Seeds

Flax seeds as well as the ultra-chic (among the health conscious) chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, says Graf. That’s one reason they’re good for your heart. Another reason is their high fiber content.

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.

For example, hemp seeds are high in arginine, an amino acid that has been associated with reduced blood levels of certain inflammatory markers.

Furthermore, flaxseed may help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.

One study in people with high blood pressure showed that eating 30 grams of flax seeds every day for half a year decreased systolic blood pressure by an average of 10 mmHg and reduced diastolic blood pressure by 7 mmHg

There are a million ways to enjoy seeds. Try them ground up with other heart-healthy foods, such as dried blueberries, cranberries, or oatmeal or even blended with soy milk and fruit to create a smoothie.

8. Avocado

These soft, tasty fruits have a well-established reputation for providing the body and heart with healthy fats. Like olive oil, they’re rich in the monounsaturated fats that may lower heart disease risk factors, such as cholesterol.

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.

Another study including 17,567 people showed that those who ate avocados regularly were half as likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Avocados are also rich in potassium, a nutrient that’s essential to heart health. In fact, just one avocado supplies 975 milligrams of potassium or about 28% of the amount that you need in a day.

Getting at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day can decrease blood pressure by an average of 8.0/4.1 mmHg, which is associated with a 15% lower risk of stroke.

9. Green tea

Green tea has been associated with a number of health benefits, from increased fat burning to improved insulin sensitivity.

It’s also brimming with polyphenols and catechins, which can act as antioxidants to prevent cell damage, reduce inflammation and protect the health of your heart.

According to one review of 20 studies, a higher intake of green tea catechins was associated with significantly lower levels of LDL and total cholesterol

A 2011 review of research studies found that drinking green tea is associated with a small reduction in cholesterol, which, as we know, is the main contributor to heart disease and stroke. But the review could not pinpoint how much green tea someone would have to drink to receive any health benefits.

Another review studied the effects of drinking green tea on people with high blood pressure. The report concluded that green tea was associated with a reduction in blood pressure. But, the authors were unable to determine if this modest reduction could help to prevent heart disease.

What’s more, an analysis including 1,367 people showed that green tea decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Another small study found that taking green tea extract for three months reduced blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol, compared to a placebo.

Taking a green tea supplement or drinking matcha, a beverage that is similar to green tea but made with the whole tea leaf may also benefit heart health.

10. Chickpeas

Chickpeas and other legumes (lentils, other kinds of beans) are a top-notch source of soluble fiber – the kind of fiber that can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol.

If you buy canned beans, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties (sodium can raise your blood pressure). Rinse them in water to wash off any added salt.

Related article: Chickpeas: An Inexpensive Way To Improve Your Nutrition

11. Broccoli, Spinach, and Kale

When it comes to your health, you really can’t go wrong with vegetables. But green vegetables may give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fiber and contain tons of vitamins and minerals. 

In particular, leafy greens are a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting

Some studies have also found a link between increasing your intake of leafy green vegetables and a lower risk of heart disease.

One analysis of eight studies found that increasing leafy green vegetable intake was associated with up to a 16% lower incidence of heart disease.

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