Heart Healthy Foods
Heart disease is a major health concern, killing around half a million people or more each year in the United States alone. Exercise and portion control are important in preventing or controlling heart disease, but what you eat, not just how much you eat, makes a big difference too. There are many fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart. You should be eating more of them more often.
Fruits and vegetables are more than just good sources of vitamins and minerals; they are low in calories, rich in dietary fiber, full of antioxidants, low in saturated fat, and naturally cholesterol free.
Antioxidants keep free radicals from damaging blood vessels and the heart. Antioxidants also keep cholesterol and blood platelets from becoming sticky, preventing dangerous clots.
Dietary fiber cannot be absorbed or used by the body, but is far more valuable than this makes it sound. Fiber slows absorption of sugars. Repeated sugar spikes can damage the lining of arteries, leading to hardening and plaque buildup. Fiber also binds to cholesterol and fat during digestion, safely moving it out of the body. In much the same way, fiber removes toxins, waste, and pollutants that can also cause damage to cells, arteries, and muscles like the heart. Fiber also helps lower blood pressure.
Acorn Squash – This winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin A that prevents the oxidization of cholesterol that can lead to plaque buildup. They are also a good source of fiber and vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.
Almonds – These nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats that actually protect the heart. They are also a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
Asparagus – Asparagus is packed with fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, and potassium. Potassium plays a key part in regulating heart function and controlling blood pressure. Folic acid and vitamin C help prevent heart disease.
Avocado – This green savory fruit is a heart health powerhouse, filled with fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, good fats, and potassium.
Beans – Black or kidney, beans are an excellent source of fiber, healthy fats, and B vitamins.
Blueberries – These small berries pack a lot of antioxidant punch, containing compounds similar to the heart healthy ones found in grapes and wine. Paired with fiber, these antioxidants help control cholesterol levels and keep plaque at bay.
Broccoli – This flowering vegetable contains sulforaphane, a compound that triggers defense mechanisms that reduce inflammation and protect the arteries from damage and disease. Broccoli is a rich source of heart healthy fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Broccoli is also one of the few plants that contain co-enzyme Q10 which plays a crucial role in muscle health and strength, including the heart.
Brown Rice – White rice has been stripped of the bran along with many vitamins and minerals. Brown rice, on the other hand, is rich in fiber and powerful antioxidants. Brown rice also contains special compounds called lignans that fight heart disease.
Cantaloupe – This fresh summer melon contains fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A, all of which protect the heart.
Carrots – Rich in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A, carrots prevent the oxidization of cholesterol. They are also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
Chia – These seeds have an abundance of healthy fat and fiber, along with healthy protein. Chia supplies all the heart healthy benefits of flax without the concerns surrounding phytoestrogens.
Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate contains compounds called flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark chocolate also balances blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Oatmeal – Filled with fiber, potassium, and healthy fats, oatmeal combats heart disease, lowers cholesterol, and brings down blood pressure. Oatmeal also contains some unique and powerful antioxidants.
Oranges – Oranges and grapefruit contain flavanones, powerful compounds that can drastically lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol levels. They are also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and B vitamins.
Papaya – Papaya is exceptionally rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Red Bell Pepper – Bell peppers of any color contain large amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C, but red bell peppers supply the most. They are also rich in B vitamins and contain some capsaicin that helps with blood flow and cholesterol.
Grapes – Grapes contain a powerful antioxidant in their skins called resveratrol along with other antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. These improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and prevent plaque.
Spinach – Another plant that contains co-enzyme Q10, which supplies energy to muscle cells and may also lower cholesterol levels. Spinach is also rich in potassium for blood pressure, fiber to continue lowering cholesterol and remove toxins, folic acid, and many antioxidants.
Sweet Potato – Much better for you than their white counterparts, sweet potatoes contain potassium, fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Tomatoes – Lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their bright red color, is a mighty antioxidant that can lower cholesterol and protect the heart and arteries from free radical damage. They are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.
Walnuts – Like almonds, walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats that actually protect the heart and a good source of fiber and antioxidants.