Eating for a healthy heart means focusing on a diet that is enriched with fruits and vegetables, fiber, fish and limiting saturated/trans fats (which both increase your cholesterol levels) and salt. While one food in particular is the cure-all for heart disease (although, we wish there was), certain foods have been proven to improve your heart health.
Start focusing on these top ten foods to a happy heart today.
In research presented at a medical conference in Washington, D.C., researchers found that long-term yogurt eaters were less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who didn’t eat yogurt. The study tracked more than 2,000 volunteers for 15 years, giving them questionnaires about their dietary habits at three intervals during the study. Study participants were 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure if at least 2 percent of their daily calories came from yogurt – that’s about the equivalent of eating a six-ounce cup of low-fat yogurt every three days. The researchers also found people who ate yogurt had a lower systolic blood pressure than those who didn’t. [via CBSNews.com]
- Whole Grains
A small cup of oatmeal, a little brown rice, a slice or two of rye bread: Eating just 25 grams of whole grains a day reduces the risk of heart disease by about 15%, new research shows. Other studies have suggested a 20% to 30% decrease in the risk of heart disease when people eat three or more servings of whole-grain foods daily. [via WebMD.com]
Beans, Beans, good for the heart! Research demonstrates that beans of various types have heart-healthy benefits. A 19-year analysis of the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the nation’s premier health census, found that people who ate beans four or more times a week were 22 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who ate them less than once weekly. [via EatingWell.com]
This cold-water fish is a great source of protein and is also packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association advises eating salmon and other omega-3 rich foods twice a week for benefits that go beyond heart health. [via WebMD.com]
Didn’t think you’d see this here, right? Well, it’s not the only surprising item on this list! Scientific literature indicates that people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who abstain. Drinking in moderation may protect the heart by raising “good” HDL cholesterol, decreasing inflammation and “thinning the blood” (preventing clots that can cause heart attack and stroke). [via EatingWell.com]
“Tomatoes are a good source of potassium and vitamin C, but there’s also some evidence that lycopene and other carotenoids, along with vitamins A, C, and E in tomatoes, may help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol oxidation, which plays a key role in plaque buildup in the blood vessels and can lead to atherosclerosis,” explains Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet. [via Sharecare.com]
According to the National Academy of Sciences, diets rich in potassium and low in sodium may reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. At about 400mg per finger, Chiquita® Bananas are an excellent source of potassium. The Food and Drug Administration says diets rich in fiber may reduce the risk of heart disease. Bananas supply 3 grams of fiber per serving. That’s 12% of the Daily Recommended Allowance. Bananas are a great source of vitamin B6. According to the American Heart Association, B vitamins help break down homocysteine—an amino acid that at high levels is related to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. [via Chiquitabananas.com]
Popcorn is a whole-grain food that contains fiber and a small amount of vitamins and minerals. It is low in calories and fat. The fiber in popcorn is mostly insoluble, which aids the digestive tract, and partly soluble, which benefits the cardiovascular system and heart. Popcorn should be air-popped or cooked in a small amount of healthy oil, such as canola oil. Healthy toppings include raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, 1 tsp. of garlic powder, 2 tbsp. of melted dark chocolate or 2 tsp. of cinnamon-sugar per 3-cup serving of popped kernels. [via LiveStrong.com]
Well-known as a disease-fighting food, blueberries contain anthocyanins, the antioxidant which gives this fruit its dark blue color. With plenty of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and other nutrients, these tiny berries have a lot to offer. If plain berries aren’t your bag, try mixing some into your whole-grain cereal, tossing them into a fruit salad or whipping up some delicious healthy pancakes. Not a fan of blueberries? Many other berries are packed with anti-inflammatories, so feel free to stock up on raspberries, blackberries and cranberries instead. [via TakePart.com]
Yes, you read right. Chocolate. Dark Chocolate, in fact. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. What’s more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. [via ScienceDaily.com]