We need to eat healthy foods for a healthy heart. There are certain foods that are friendly for the heart and needs to be eaten mandatorily every day. Its always the combination or variety of foods that works rather than a solo food. Your plate should be filled with fruits, vegetables, preferably in the raw state and whole grains. A few permutations and combinations in the heart healthy foods can make a big difference for the cardiovascular health.
Heart Healthy Foods
The American Heart Association has recommended consuming fish that is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids at least twice a week. Omega 3 fatty acid is an unsaturated fatty acid that helps in decreasing inflammation and triglycerides, lowering the blood pressure, reducing irregular heartbeats and decreasing stroke. Fatty fishes like sardines, mackerel, tuna and salmon are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. However, it is also important to consider the method of preparation. Fishes baked or broiled is always a healthier option than deep fried ones.
2. Whole Grains
To keep your heart healthy, you need to eat heart healthy foods such as grains whole. Heart healthy foods that are high in soluble fibre are oatmeal, barley, quinoa and beans. Eating 3 servings of whole grains daily can reduce the risk of heart disease. The nutrients present in this heart healthy food iron, fibre, zinc, B vitamins and Vitamin E work in a team to lower the blood cholesterol, improving the processing of blood sugar in the body and preventing the chances of being obese by improving the satiety and keeping you full.
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Choosing nuts instead of deep fried, salty and unhealthy snacks helps to maintain the heart healthy foods diet. Basically nuts contain fibre, unsaturated fats, plant sterols, Vitamin E, Omega 3 fatty acids and L- arginine that help in lowering the LDL cholesterol levels, lower the risk of developing blood clots and improve the health of the lining of the artery. Nuts when dry roasted or raw is always preferable than deep fried in oil or ghee. However, nuts are having calories on higher side hence moderation is the key. Having a small handful of nuts per serving and having 4 servings a week is beneficial. Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and pecan are heart healthy nuts. However the beneficial effects will go in drain if these nuts are coated with chocolates, sugar and salt.
Having a strawberry smoothie in the morning or sprinkling blue berries in the yogurt is advisable as it reduces the risk of heart attack. Berries are colorful, sweet and flavored that help in fighting against the chronic diseases. Strawberries are rich in Vitamin C and folate that helps in protecting the heart. They help in widening the arteries thus preventing the plaque buildup. Raspberries are rich in fibre providing about 4 gms for half cup. They are rich in polyphenols and low in fat that reduces the risk of heart disease. Add berries into the milk or sprinkle them on the pies, I think the deal is like a win win situation in terms of taste and health.
Flaxseeds are tiny seeds which is a boon for heart. Flaxseeds have been a constant ingredient in crackers, waffles and oatmeal. Flaxseeds are rich in Omega 3, lignans and fibre that help in preventing the hardening of the arteries and keeps the plaque from getting deposited in the arteries. Lignans also reduces the atherosclerotic plaque buildup. Eating flaxseeds help in maintaining the heart’s natural rhythm and lowers the cholesterol level. Adding 1 to 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds to smoothies or combine the flaxseeds with sprouts or sprinkle flaxseed powder on muffins, cookies or bread. The choices of adding this healthy add on is yours.
Beans also known as legumes contains proteins, minerals and fibre without adding saturated fats. Beans are black beans, mung, kidney beans, navy beans and lima. We eat beans with rice or some eat beans on toast. You can add beans into soups, salads or pastas. You can consider adding beans into tortillas as well as parathas. Savory pancakes are prepared using beans which make up a healthy breakfast. Beans tend to improve the blood cholesterol and make you feel fuller.
7. Leafy, Green Vegetables
There is always a reason why our mothers insist on having leafy vegetable? Good for our health, full of nutrients and also good for the heart. Leafy veggies include cabbage, fenugreek, broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, spinach and kale. Very delicious and packed with nutrients like Vitamin A,C and K. A daily serving of green leafy vegetables reduces the heart diseases risk by 11%. Extremely low in fat and calories and high in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium and folic acid, they are essential for optimal functioning of the heart.
Tomatoes are rich source of antioxidants, Vitamin A and C, folic acid and beta carotene. It is also rich in lycopene that gives a bright red color to the tomatoes. Tomatoes decreased the level of oxidized LDL and showed marked improvement in the inflammatory status in obese individuals. The presence of lycopene in tomatoes has shown marked survival in patients with heart failure and the risk of stroke is reduced by 65%. Hence a tomato every day for healthy heart.
Fruits are loaded with nutrients that lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help in weight management. Hence prefer whole, fresh fruits rather than canned or frozen fruits or fruit juice. Have at least 3 servings of fruits every day. Apples contain pectin that blocks the absorption of cholesterol and also of course fibre. Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C that can protect against stroke and also contain flavonoid that can lower the blood pressure and protects against the inflammation of the artery. However we need to keep a check on consumption of avocados as they can be high in calories. But avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats that can minimize blood cholesterol and blood clots. Fruits can be eaten as it is or can be added into salads, smoothie or mixed with yogurt.
10. Dark Chocolate
The good news is that you can eat dark chocolate though in moderation as a part of heart healthy foods. Eating dark chocolates lower the blood pressure naturally and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 37%.Flavanols present in dark chocolate make the blood platelets less sticky and improve the blood flow to the brain and heart. The fat mostly present in dark chocolates is monounsaturated healthy fats. Watch out for marshmallows, caramel or nuts present in the chocolates or any other extra ingredients that can add extra calories or fat.
Cutting onions do make us cry but their benefits for heart make us smile. You eat raw, cook them, roast them or add it into the soups or any other food; you will still get the beneficial properties of onions. Onions improve the levels of HDL cholesterol. You don’t need to consume too much to get beneficial effects. Just a half onion is enough to improve the HDL cholesterol. Onions show a drop in blood cholesterol. Onions contain high amounts of flavonoids called quercitin which protects the LDL cholesterol from free radical oxidation, reduces inflammation of the blood vessels and maintains the blood flow. Onions combined with other flavonoid rich foods like apples and broccoli have shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by 30%.
Tofu, being a plant protein, contains low calories and is gluten free, contains no cholesterol and is also rich in iron and calcium. Being a plant based food, tofu is always a substitute for animal protein, lowers LDL cholesterol, decreases the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
13. Red Wine
Strictly in moderation, red wine is thought to be heart healthy. The antioxidants present in red wine called polyphenols help in protecting the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Resveratrol, a key ingredient present in red wine lowers the LDL cholesterol, prevents damage to the blood vessel and also prevents blood clots. Up to one drink a day is fine to get heart healthy benefits.
Here, we have seen amazing heart healthy foods. To maintain a healthy heart, follow a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking or using tobacco. Exercise daily at least for 30 minutes, have a proper healthy diet, manage stress, get enough sleep and maintain an ideal body weight. A regular health screening of blood pressure, blood cholesterol and diabetes is mandatory. If on medication for heart, have the medicines as prescribed by the doctor and maintain a healthy lifestyle.