Did you know that your heart beats over 100,000 times per day, pumping up to 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your circulatory system? To maintain the reliability of your ticker, you must work to take care of all dimensions of your wellness including diet, physical activity routine and emotional health and wellness. A heart-healthy diet includes many plant foods rich in “phytochemicals” (or plant compounds) and fibers that prevent plaque from forming in your arteries, keeping your cardiovascular system strong and healthy! Here’s what dietitians are recommending as the top ten types of foods for heart health!
Beans are a great source of soluble fiber which decreases cholesterol levels in your blood by binding dietary cholesterol before it is absorbed. This type of fiber also causes your liver to take up excess cholesterol from your blood to make a substance called “bile” which helps in food digestion.
Oatmeal is another wonderful source of soluble fiber, decreasing your total cholesterol level in the blood, keeping your arteries plaque free!
Nuts are a great source of poly and mono-unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats decrease cholesterol levels. Almonds for example, along with being high in healthy fats, are also high in plant sterols and stanols helping to decrease circulating artery clogging LDL cholesterol.
- Chia and Flax Seeds
Inflammation has been shown in scientific research to be a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including heart disease. Chia and flax seeds are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids which decrease inflammation in the body. Try putting two tablespoons of chia in your oatmeal every morning for a heart healthy breakfast.
Tasty avocado is a wonderful addition to a heart healthy diet! This fruit is another good source of monounsaturated fats, keeping your arteries in tip top shape. Avocado is so versatile and can be enjoyed on/with almost any food. See the below recipe for a wonderful heart-healthy dessert for this Valentine’s day!
- Dark leafy greens
Leafy greens such as kale, chard and spianch are the most nutrient dense foods in the world, rich in “phytochemicals” called antioxidants. These chemicals help prevent the cholesterol in your blood from getting “sticky” and adhering to your artery walls. Leafy greens are a great addition to almost every meal. Try cooking down handfuls of greens for sauces, stir fries, tacos, lasagnas and more!
- Complex carbohydrate
Complex carbohydrates like fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain a heavy dose of fiber. This fiber prevents the carbohydrate from being rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. With simple carbohydrates however, you will see a large and rapid spike in blood sugar. This spike in blood sugar increases your triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which increase likelihood of plaque formation in your arteries. Aim to consume at least 50% of your grains in the whole, unprocessed form.
- Potassium-rich foods
Potassium-rich foods get their own category due to their ability to keep blood pressure in a healthy range. Foods rich in potassium include leafy greens, nuts, bananas, potatoes and avocados. Talk to your doctor and registered dietitian about potassium intake if you have kidney problems.
- “Whole” Unprocessed Foods
Opt for unprocessed foods to increase your heart health. Processed foods are the leading source of sodium intake which increases your blood pressure and damages your arteries. Processed foods also are can be rich in trans fats which decrease good HDL cholesterol and increase bad LDL cholesterol, increasing plaque formation in your arteries.
- Plant foods in general
Fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, oh my! So many fantastic plants that keep your heart healthy! Animal products however, increase cholesterol levels due to saturated fat content. Choose animal products in moderation including dairy products and meats. Choose leaner protein sources such as beans and legumes, tofu and lean meats (chicken, fish, and turkey). Click here for more information on portion size of protein at each meal.
Please Note: if you take any blood thinners talk to your doctor and registered dietitian about food and drug interactions before changing your diet.
A Valentine’s Day Treat!
Click here for the 3 ingredient blood pressure & cholesterol lowering chocolate pudding! Try with strawberries for a delightful Valentine's Treat!