15 Foods You Should Be Eating to Maximize Heart Health
Fighting cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and in most countries around the world, starts with prevention. A majority of cardiovascular issues are preventable with improved diet and exercise habits. And while caloric restriction does lead to weight loss, what we eat (in addition to how much we eat) makes a big difference to the heart. After all, eating a low calorie diet consisting of unhealthy foods is actually more detrimental than eating your normal caloric intake full of nutrient-dense foods. So with that, following are 15 foods, broken down into five categories with proven heart benefits.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods that we can eat. They offer vitamins and minerals that work together to promote heart and overall health. Try incorporating more blueberries, tomatoes and avocados into your diet. These fruits and veggies offer excellent fiber and antioxidants, healthy lycopene antioxidants and super-healthy fats, respectively.
Dark Leafy Greens
Don’t forget dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens and more that offer important K vitamins and a slew of nutrients to keep you healthy. As part of an overall healthier diet, these greens actively promote heart health from proper blood clotting to reduced blood pressure. *Speak to your cardiologist about leafy greens and vitamin K if you are taking Warfarin.
Salmon, sardines and tuna are all fatty fish that promote heart health because of their beneficial omega-3 and other fatty acids. And while we can get our Omega 3s in supplement form (speak to your doctor about whether supplementation is appropriate) there is no substitute for a healthy balanced diet rich in these compounds. Fats have gotten a bad rap in the dietary world – ultimately it is what kind of fat we consume that makes a difference. When possible, choose sustainably sourced wild fish versus their farmed cousins.
Beans and Legumes
Beans such as garbanzo and black beans as well as legumes such as lentils contain resistant starches which can, as part of a wider healthy diet, reduce cholesterol levels and promote cardiovascular health. Further, filling fiber can help regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day and minimize overeating.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds and walnuts are jam packed with vitamins, fiber, nutrients and healthy fats. Seeds including chia and flax contain fiber and healthy fatty acids. All of these contribute to better heart health through lowered cholesterol, lowered blood pressure and ultimately reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Of particular note, nuts and seeds come in so many different varieties and forms that there is something for everyone. However, be mindful of salted and honey roasted versions as excess sodium and sugar can be detrimental and mitigate their healthfulness.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of foods that can be healthy for your heart. However, what we want to show is that there are a myriad of helpful foods that can be eaten raw or cooked and also have amazing nutritional value and help prevent heart disease. Substituting some of these healthful foods instead of highly processed foods that have become all too common in our diets can both reduce calories and improve our general health.
It is important to remember that diet is only one half of the lifestyle change necessary to maintain heart health. Most patients will lose a significant amount weight by modifying their diets to eliminate processed foods, sugars and saturated fats. Building muscle creates a framework for more efficient caloric burn even while at rest. So remember that exercising a few times a week and getting your heart rate up, as well as strength training, will solidify those diet results for the long-term.