Heart disease accounts for one third of worldwide deaths each year. During American Heart month, and all year, it is important to remember the role our diets play in maintaining heart health. Southwoods Cardiology wants to help give you peace of mind knowing that incorporating any or all of the foods on this list, can help lower your risk for heart disease, cholesterol and more.
Here are our picks for 12 heart healthy foods to add to your diet:
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
There are many great options for leafy green vegetables! Spinach, kale, collard greens, and bok choy taste great and are rich in vitamin K. Leafy green veggies also can help lower blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart disease due to the high levels of dietary nitrites.
It’s no surprise that berries are a great healthy choice, but for heart health we recommend strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. The benefits of berries differ from one to another, but the main benefits include lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI.
Nuts are a great snack option to help keep you full and boost your health. Two of our favorites are walnuts and almonds. Walnuts are a great source of magnesium, copper and manganese, which all help prevent heart disease. A few servings of walnuts in your diet can also help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Almonds are considered a superfood and can be enjoyed by themselves or added into your favorite recipes. The benefits of almonds include helping to prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and reduce belly fat. Both of these nuts, and many others, are delicious and heart healthy.
4. Dark Chocolate
This one can be tricky because chocolate is candy, which is high in sugar and not typically a health benefit. However, high quality dark chocolate in small amounts can satisfy your sweet tooth and provide some health benefits. These chocolates are high in antioxidants, which can boost heart health and are a better alternative to low quality, sugary candies.
5. Fatty Fish
Fish is always a good idea when it comes to heart health, specifically ones rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna. All of these, if incorporated as a regular part of your diet, can assist with lowering diastolic blood pressure. Studies have shown that over long periods of time, a diet including fatty fish have been known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Consuming fish can also reduce risks of diabetes and obesity.
Beans are high in resistant starch, which is great news for your heart. They have been known to reduce cholesterol levels in your body. Beans, such as pinto beans, help with reducing blood pressure and inflammation as well. They are great on their own or mixed into soups, salads, and more!
Avocados are known to have an abundance of potassium which help in reducing cholesterol, as well as reducing your chances of heart disease. The potassium can also lower blood pressure in your body. The average person needs 4.7 grams of potassium and just one avocado can contribute 20% of this daily need. Avocados are delicious and versatile in many recipes!
Tomatoes have a high amount of antioxidants, which have been linked to great heart health. Antioxidant deficiencies can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
9. Olive Oil
Olive Oil is a great way to boost antioxidants and can be easily incorporated into any diet. The antioxidants will help reduce inflammation and the long term effects will help reduce your risk of heart disease. Swap out other oils for olive oil when cooking or drizzle it on a salad for a great taste and easy way to get more antioxidants.
Certain seeds are extremely beneficial to your heart’s health. Some examples are chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds, which have all been linked to reducing inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. They can easily be mixed into a smoothie or oatmeal for an extra boost.
11. Whole Grains
Whole grains have three ingredients that make them extremely heart healthy: germ, endosperm and bran. If you’re looking for the right whole grains to buy, we recommend whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa. Incorporating these whole grains into your diet will help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and lower your risk of heart disease.
Garlic is a staple in most kitchens used to enhance the flavor of your meals. That is great news because it is also heart healthy! Garlic has high amounts of allicin, which is believed to have a multitude of therapeutic effects. These therapeutic effects are believed to help in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Southwoods Cardiology understands the little things go a long way when it comes to heart health. This February we wanted to highlight important heart health habits, but they need to be taken into account year round for your heart to be healthy.
Southwoods Cardiology is committed to providing high quality, comprehensive care and works with your primary care physician to ensure that care is coordinated. If you are in need of cardiovascular care and are interested in an evaluation, contact your primary care physician for a referral.