Your heart just might be the hardest working organ in your body. It pumps 2000 gallons of blood through your body on a daily basis, throughout nearly 60,000 miles of blood vessels. It beats on average 100,000 times a day, and literally never rests.
As it’s busy keeping you alive day-in and day-out, it’s up to you to take good care of this powerful little machine with all the tools available. So, what steps can you take to ensure your heart beats for as long as possible?
Experts agree that it’s essentially a two-pronged approach: one based on exercise and another based on eating well-balanced healthy meals. Here we are going to give you the right tools to put all the most essential healthy foods into your body, to fuel your heart.
There are three important parts to eating for a healthy heart: focus on fiber, vitamins and minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Fiber is an essential, and often overlooked, aspect of daily diets; it helps reduce blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Fiber also helps you feel fuller for longer, helping those trying to keep the weight off.
Vitamins and minerals, found in high quantities in fruits and vegetables, help prevent heart disease and reduce buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids are vital to reducing inflammation, and also help reduce blood pressure levels.
Here we are going to list for you 7 foods that specifically target heart health. Each of them has at least one of the essentials: fiber, vitamins and minerals, or omega-3’s, and each of the foods listed below are easy to incorporate into your daily diet.
Flaxseed is a heart superfood! It contains many of the qualities listed above that are vital for heart health. Firstly, it is an extremely rich source of omega-3 fatty acid. It has been researched extensively and has shown promise as a natural method to reduce the risk of heart disease. Secondly, it is a great source of soluble fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber binds to bad cholesterol and fat soluble waste within your body, and facilitates their removal. Finally, flaxseed contains Lignans, having antioxidant properties, which promote a better immune system and overall better health.
2. Oily Fish
Salmon, tuna, and mackerel are all fish high in omega-3’s fatty acids. Omega-3s fight against buildup in your veins, and promote healthy blood flow throughout your body. Fatty fish also targets lowering your triglycerides, which is essential to fighting heart disease. Just 3.5 ounces a week is the recommended portion for improving heart health, that’s only the size of a computer mouse!
3. Raw/Dark Chocolate
Thankfully, you can still indulge when it comes to eating for your heart’s health. Eating dark chocolate is just as important as eating your flaxseed! Cacao contains antioxidants and flavanols which help lower blood pressure and risk of blood clots. Try to get the darkest chocolate available, preferably 70% cocoa or higher.
4. Colorful Fruit and Vegetables
The key word here is colorful. The more color you can include on your plate through a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, the more variety you are going to get with vitamins and minerals. It has been proven that red meats and preserved meats increase your bad cholesterol, leading to heart issues further down the road. Therefore, if you fill your plate with vitamin rich fruit and vegetables there is less space to fill it with meats. Each individual vegetable or fruit will contain a different, and equally important, set of vitamins but some important ones to target are those containing Vitamin C, antioxidants and Vitamin A. These help keep the arteries clean, and reduce the risk of buildup. The best sources for Vitamin A (also known as beta-carotene), are vegetables colored in rich dark colors, like carrots, kale, red peppers, and tomatoes. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, and broccoli.
Another food which is rich in omega-3s are nuts; almonds, walnuts, macadamia, etc. Although they contain a different kind of omega-3’s than fish, they are just as vital to your heart health. All the good monounsaturated fats they contain, help prevent the buildup of bad saturated fats. The fats in nuts target lowering the LDL cholesterol, and help improve your HDL cholesterol – which is the one you want to focus on.
6. Beans and Legumes
Take your pick! Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, these are all good choices to get more fiber into your diet. They are also high in minerals which are otherwise found in animal products, but avoid the saturated fats. They help improve blood cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer after a meal.
High in fiber, otherwise known as beta-glucan, oats help you combat high cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol. Just a cup of oatmeal or unsweetened muesli a day, contains all the daily fiber you need. Other foods that contain beta-glucan are seaweeds, shiitake mushrooms, and barley (another common grain).