A Heart Healthy Eating Guide Everyone Can Follow
February is American Heart Month (sponsored by the American Heart Association), and with one in four deaths every year being caused by heart disease (it’s the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States), now is the perfect time to talk about making healthy choices and small changes that help you manage your heart and health conditions.
Poor diet is one of the biggest contributors to heart problems. When you eat an unhealthy diet, you increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor circulation. Did you know that these are three key factors that directly affect the overall health of your heart?
There is so much information available about what you shouldn’t eat to keep your heart as healthy as possible (yep, I’m talking about you saturated and Trans fats), but I want you to think about what you can eat. What foods and nutrients are actually good for your heart health?
Below are some foods and nutrients that you should be eating to give your heart the TLC it deserves.
Phytosterols are found in all edible plants, so it’s easy to add them to your diet. Just eat more plant-based foods. Phytosterols are important for heart health because they are known to help reduce low density lipoprotein cholesterol. That’s LDL cholesterol which is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol” because it’s a primary risk factor for heart disease.
Cocoa flavanols have been shown to help maintain blood vessels’ elasticity. That’s a good thing because it supports normal blood flow. Poor elasticity could lead to poor blood flow. How do you get more cocoa flavanols into your diet? Eat dark chocolate.
Hydroxytyrosol is an antioxidant that has been found to protect blood lipids (fat) from oxidative stress. In simplest terms, oxidative stress refers to the toxic effects that occur when the amount of free radicals exceed the amount of antioxidants. This imbalance can damage all components of a cell, and contributes to a variety of health conditions, including heart conditions. Hydroxytyrosol is found in olive oil.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease triglyceride levels and have been shown to help decrease blood pressure. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet isn’t difficult if you like to eat fish. If you don’t like fish, try eating walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and soybeans.
Oat beta-glucan is a soluble dietary fiber that can help to lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that eating just 3 grams of oat beta-glucan per day can reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels by 5-7% on average. To add more oat beta-glucan to your diet, eat more oats and barley.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract has been found in multiple scientific studies to help keep the blood pressure within a normal range. Grape seed extract refers to ground up seeds that come from wine grapes. Many herbal companies sell grape seed extract supplements.
Vitamin K improves cardiovascular health by keeping excess calcium out of the blood vessel walls. Too much calcium in the blood vessel walls can negatively affect blood flow and cause heart problems. An easy way to get more Vitamin K is to eat more green leafy vegetables.
Alpha Linolenic Acid
Not only are walnuts rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but they also include alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which help to prevent heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks.
Fiber comes from plant foods, and the fiber in oat bran, oatmeal, carrots, apples, kidney beans, and other beans can lower cholesterol.
Your Heart Healthy Shopping List
Next time you go to the grocery store, stock up on these foods that have been proven to improve heart health:
- Plant-based foods
- Dark chocolate
- Olive oil
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Green leafy vegetables
- Kidney beans
As you can see from the list above, I added almonds to the shopping list, because it’s another great food to keep your heart healthy. A handful of almonds a day can help your blood pressure and cholesterol. Just be sure to choose unsalted nuts.
Remember, eating healthy doesn’t have to be all about what you can’t eat. Instead, think about what you can eat and build a shopping list and weekly menu from there. You’ll be healthier and happier when you do!
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All information contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be taken as medical or other health advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical professional. IN THE CASE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.
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