If you know anything about heart health, you know that nutrition and a healthy diet are just as important, if not more important, than exercise. In addition to limiting certain foods high in fat or cholesterol, it’s also key to make sure that you are eating for heart health. These fruits, vegetables, and grains are a variety of colorful ingredients which have been shown to help lower your risk of many serious and chronic health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and more. Here are the top 6 superfoods for heart health.
1. Dark Leafy Greens
Though these greens have a bad reputation, dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and arugula are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, which plays a key role in blood coagulation and bone health. When vitamin K levels are insufficient, your risk of hemorrhage, osteoporosis, and bone fractures is increased.
Berries like blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries not only taste great, but they contain many nutrients and antioxidants. Specifically, blueberries contain an antioxidant known as anthocyanins, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease in both healthy and at-risk individuals. Strawberries, alternatively, are a great source of vitamin C, and increased consumption of strawberries may reduce certain risk factors for heart disease, including blood cholesterol and oxidative stress levels.
3. Olive Oil and Fatty Fish
This might sound a bit confusing, but there are oils which can be beneficial to your heart. Saturated fats, like butter and coconut oil can increase your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, increasing the cholesterol in your bloodstream. Conversely, unsaturated fats, like olive oil, raise levels of HDL, which absorbs cholesterol in the blood and carries it back to the liver, reducing blood pressure and harmful triglycerides. Omega-3s, found in fatty fish like salmon and in fish oils, can also help reduce triglycerides.
4. Beans and legumes
Beans are high in minerals and fiber, providing the fullness of meat without the saturated fat found in some animal proteins. Adding beans to your diet may help you feel full longer, which could contribute to weight loss, while also helping to reduce your blood cholesterol, preventing clots.
5. Citrus Fruits
Another category of superfoods you may not have thought of for promoting heart health is citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of Vitamin C, which supports the immune system and helps maintain healthy skin, bones and blood vessels. Additionally, citrus fruits contain soluble fiber, which reduces LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease.
6. Whole Grains, Nuts, and Seeds
Not all carbohydrates are created equal and, it turns out, intact whole grains, like oats, barley, and brown rice, can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 30%. These whole grains help to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and can also lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, eating around 15 grams of nuts and seeds each day, about 3-4 small handfuls, can reduce your risk of heart disease by around 20%.
While it is important to limit your intake of certain foods to preserve or restore heart health, increasing your consumption of heart-healthy superfoods, like those listed above, is just as important when kick-starting a heart-healthy lifestyle.