As the leading cause of death globally, cardiovascular disease isn't something only the elderly need to be concerned about, but all of us!
You may be thinking that heart disease is a symptom of aging however it is largely preventable with diet and lifestyle choices. This means what you choose to put on your plate will make a big impact on your health today but also influences your health tomorrow.
Cardiovascular disease includes a variety of conditions which affect the functioning of the heart such as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, hypertension, atherosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis, and strokes.
Whether you currently have heart disease or it runs in the family, addressing your diet is always one of the first places to start for prevention and reversal of heart conditions.
Which foods can help your heart stay strong and healthy?
Foods that are good for your heart
Avocados are highly nutritious fruits, that provide a bountiful of heart healthy nutrients. Highly fatty, avocados contain specifically monounsaturated fats which may help to improve cholesterol levels (1).
In terms of heart health it is recommended to include certain fats such as monounsaturated fats while reducing saturated fat intake (2).
Avocado is also a source of fiber, vitamin E, and potassium all of which are commonly lacking in the western diet but may contribute to the maintenance of healthy blood vessels by reducing cardiovascular inflammation.
Touted as the best nut for heart health due to their impressive supply of antioxidants, walnuts can help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation caused by free radicals which can damage the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease.
A study found replacing saturated fats with sources of polyunsaturated fats, such as walnuts, improved blood pressure in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease (3).
Walnuts are also the richest nut source of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential fats known for their inflammation lowering effects and associated with lowered cardiovascular disease risk.
Eating more fruits and vegetables will provide a more alkaline diet which will help to lower inflammation, a key driver in the development of cardiovascular disease. Leafy greens are a particularly good choice to increase alkalinity in the diet.
Leafy greens are also rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin k - all important for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Vitamin K in particular, is not found in many foods but is abundant in leafy green vegetables. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood coagulation and deficiency may increase the risk of heart complications (4).
Consumption of leafy greens has been associated with a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, what more to get you motivated to eat your greens! (5)(6).
A tasty source of heart healthy antioxidants and phytonutrients which can help to reduce oxidative stress; a significant threat to heart health.
Berries are recommended as an essential food for fighting heart disease due to their ability to improve vascular function and arterial stiffness (7).
Anthocyanins in particular, a type of flavonoid found in high amounts in blueberries, may be the main reason as to why blueberries are seen as one of the prime foods to fight heart disease.
In fact, eating 1 cup of blueberries per day was shown to be enough to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent according to a study.
High in fiber, protein, and phytonutrients beans are also low glycemic and anti-inflammatory which can help to improve cholesterol levels, modulate blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress (8)(9).
Beans are also a source of potassium, which is commonly low in the Standard American diet, and deficiency is associated with increased blood pressure (10).
By avoiding processed and packaged foods and choosing whole plant foods as a main focus in your diet you will naturally lower your intake of sodium and increase potassium levels, reducing your risk of heart related problems.
As if you needed another excuse to eat chocolate, right? Now before you go running for the Snickers bar, this isn't just any ol' chocolate we are talking about!
Dark chocolate is the one you want to look for, which can contribute to improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood clotting, coronary artery function, blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity (11).
These benefits are largely due to the flavonoids found in cacao that can lower inflammatory markers and oxidative stress while improving blood flow (12).
Opt for raw cacao or a minimum of 70% dark chocolate to ensure you are getting the most benefits.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.
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