EATING SMART FOR A HEALTHY HEART
Within the last two centuries, a great deal has been learned about the human heart and how it functions. While most practitioners are on the same page on the prescribed activities in pursuing a heart-healthy lifestyle, there is a great deal of disagreement on what one should and should not eat.
Even the fabled Lipid Hypothesis, which was pretty much regarded as a scientific consensus, was challenged by the “cholesterol skeptics” who pinned the cardiovascular disease blame on carbohydrates, instead. Proponents of this new thinking now argue that you are better off eating the fat-laden patty, cheese, and bacon in your burger, and shunning the carb-heavy bun.
The experts do, at least, agree on recommending the use of heart health supplement products and promoting some specific food groups that have cardio-protective nutritional properties. Certain foods are believed to influence blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and even inflammation, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Let us take a quick look at some of the food preferences that can maximize your heart health.
Green leafy vegetables
Apart from providing large amounts of fiber and water that aid in digestive processes, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, especially vitamin K which protects arteries and promotes proper blood clotting. Dietary nitrates present in these greens improve the quality and function of blood vessels, thereby preventing hypertension and coronary artery disease.
Whole grains (we prefer gluten-free) such as buckwheat, quinoa, oats, teff, millet, amaranth, wild rice, and even brown rice are high in fiber and have been shown to reduce elevated blood pressure and lower the level of LDL or “bad cholesterol,” thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Nuts like almonds and walnuts are good sources of minerals, fiber, and heart-healthy plant oils which help reduce cholesterol and belly fat. Walnuts, in particular, are rich in minerals like magnesium, copper, and manganese.
Apart from lowering bad cholesterol levels, almonds in one’s diet also increase levels of HDL or the “good cholesterol.” This helps reduce plaque buildup in the arteries, keeping them clear and reducing the incidence of blood clots and strokes.
While most people are not in the habit of eating seeds, they can be enjoyed in breads and pastries, as toppings, and even in salads. Seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp are rich sources of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart by improving many heart disease risk factors, including inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Legumes such as beans, soybeans like edamame, and to some extent, even peanuts are popular foods that are known to be heart-healthy mainly due to their ability to reduce cholesterol levels. Edamame or immature soybean pod has the added advantage of containing beneficial flavonoids, antioxidants, and a lot of fiber which may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Dietary oils come from both animal and plant sources. The oils that are most beneficial to heart health are those sourced from fatty fish and fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty cold-water fish species such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines are sought after for their heart-health benefits, such as reducing levels of triglycerides, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Vegetable oils such as olive oil, and coconut oil are valuable to a heart-healthy diet because they are packed with antioxidants, which can relieve inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic heart disease.
Avocados are a valuable source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This fruit can reduce cholesterol levels and is also rich in potassium which helps control blood pressure and can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Other nutrient-packed fruits
Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants like anthocyanin, which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene which helps neutralize harmful free radicals, preventing oxidative damage and inflammation. These fruits also increase one’s HDL cholesterol.
Among the best news for people aiming to improve heart health is that antioxidants like the flavonoids in chocolate help boost heart health by reducing calcified plaque in the arteries and reducing coronary artery disease. While this is true for chocolate in general, most health-conscious people go for dark chocolate to keep sugar levels low.
The substances present in raw garlic, specifically, allicin, have long been known to reduce total cholesterol, inhibit platelet buildup in the blood vessels, control hypertension, and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The heart health benefits of green tea have been enjoyed by people all over the world for millennia. Tea is rich in polyphenols and catechins, which can act as antioxidants to prevent cell damage, reduce inflammation, and maintain blood pressure. Unfortunately, you’d have to drink A LOT of green tea to really experience the benefits. We use a product called Vitanox that contains 83.35 mg of green tea catechins per serving to ensure antioxidant benefits!
Food choices available at the nearest groceries might not always provide a complete set of nutrients we might need for a healthy heart. Fortunately, nutritional companies offer heart health supplement products such as Cardiotrophin PMG and Cardio-Plus and Cardio-Plus GF that contain valuable micronutrients derived from natural sources. Be sure to only trust products that are certified with the USFDA and local regulatory authorities.
For natural and safe remedies for better cardiac health, don’t hesitate to reach out to WholeBody Solutions here. We take a holistic approach to wellness. You can also contact Dr. Ann Doggett at 617.328.6300 and FrontDesk@WholeBodySolutions.org.