Health & Body-Boosting

12 Heart-Healthy Fruits & Vegetables

Wed Apr 6

Did you know cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and in the U.S. it accounts for about 1 of every 3 deaths?

A  healthy diet and lifestyle are keys to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease.  Eating the right healthy foods can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Make sure you eat an overall healthy diet that consists of:
  • a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • healthy sources of protein i.e legumes and nuts, fish and seafood, low-fat or nonfat dairy; and, if you eat meat and poultry, ensure it is lean and unprocessed,
  • liquid non-tropical vegetable oils
  • minimally processed foods
  • minimized intake of added sugars
  • foods prepared with little or no salt
  • limited or preferably no alcohol intake

Here are 10 foods that you should be eating to maximize your heart health.

Dark Leafy Greens

They’re full of vitamins and minerals that help prevent heart disease. They’re also high in nitrates, which helps to open blood vessels so oxygen-rich blood can reach your heart. In fact, studies have shown that eating one cup of dark leafy greens each day may lower your risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.

Berries

Studies have linked berry consumption with improved heart health. Berries are high in flavonoids and antioxidants that are associated with lower odds of developing heart disease, making them one of the American Heart Association’s superfoods. Berries contain particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenol, these plant compounds may increase levels of nitric oxide, which in turn helps relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

Consuming berries also helps decrease bad cholesterol levels and reduced systolic blood pressure, body mass index, and measures of blood sugar, according to a meta-analysis of 22 randomized, controlled trials that was published in March 2016 in Scientific Reports.

 Avocados

Eating two or more servings of avocado a week can cut the risk of heart disease by a fifth according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association which surveyed more than 68,000 women and 41,000 men on their diets every four years over a 30-year period.

Avocados contain dietary fiber, unsaturated fats especially monounsaturated fat (healthy fats) that have all been associated with good cardiovascular health. They’re also a rich source of oleic acid and potassium which help lower blood pressure and the risk of stroke.

Pomegranate

A 2017 review published in Pharmacological Research of eight clinical trials showed pomegranate juice reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure.  The authors concluded it “may be prudent to include this fruit juice in a heart-healthy diet.”

While pomegranates can be a little intimidating, (cutting one open requires some precision) they are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants that help protect the heart and arteries. Studies have shown that pomegranate may help reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries and lower blood pressure. This is thanks to its powerful polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in many plant-based foods and work as antioxidants in the body and help fight inflammation.

Cherries

Cherries are another fruit that is rich in nutrients known to promote heart health. This includes potassium and polyphenol antioxidants. Higher intakes of potassium has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke as it and helps remove excess sodium from your body, regulating your blood pressure. The powerful polyphenol antioxidants found in cherries, including anthocyanins, flavonols, and catechins, can help keep your heart healthy by protecting against cellular damage and reducing inflammation.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant that fights free radicals that can damage your cells and affect your immune system. Lycopene can also help lower your levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, as well as your blood pressure which in turn may lower your chances of heart disease. A 2017 analysis of 25 studies found that people with the highest lycopene intake cut their risk of stroke by 26 percent and risk of heart disease by 14 percent. Cooking tomatoes brings out their lycopene, boosting the heart benefits even more.

Sweet potato

Eating potassium-rich sweet potatoes helps promote a healthy heart. Potassium plays an important role in heart health by keeping your sodium levels in check and lowering your blood pressure. It causes you to excrete more sodium and reduce blood pressure which both can help reduce your risk for stroke. In fact, high potassium intake is associated with a 24% lower risk of stroke, found one British Medical Journal review.

Whole grains

Replacing refined grains in your diet with whole grains is good for your heart. That’s because whole grains are rich in antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and phytosterols-all nutrients that protect against heart disease. Plus, they’re high in fiber which is crucial for heart health. In one Harvard study, women who ate a high-fiber diet had a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease than those on a low-fiber diet.

Beans

Adding beans to your diet means good news for your heart. This includes black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, cranberry beans, and fava beans, plus other legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and more. They’re packed full of fiber, magnesium and potassium which all help lower blood pressure and keep your heart strong. On top of that, the heart-protective flavonoids (the same kind found in berries and red wine) can help lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Walnuts

Walnuts help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure, two of the major risk factors for heart disease. The alpha-linoleic acid (which is the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid) found in walnuts acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and has been shown to help reduce plaque buildup in coronary arteries.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is another excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that’s important for heart health. The ALA in flaxseed may help reduce inflammation and prevent cholesterol. A study in 8,866 people linked increased ALA intake to decreased cholesterol levels and a lower risk of ischemic heart disease (which is related to narrowed arteries) and type 2 diabetes. Numerous studies have also linked ALA to a lower risk of stroke.

Carrots

For good heart health, include carrots in your diet. Carrots are a great source of carotenes and have lots of the well-known nutrient beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps fight heart disease, according to a review published in Heart and Circulatory Physiology in 2008. The vitamin A in your system prevents hypertrophy, a harmful thickening of your ventricular walls.