15 Incredible Heart Friendly Foods

Introduction

`Heart disease results in approximately one-third of the deaths in the world. As per the American Heart Association (AHA), Heart ailments affect higher than 2,200 Americans every day that is equal to around the death of an individual every 39 seconds. Approximately 150,000 American individuals died due to heart diseases were below the age of 65 years.

With changes in lifestyle that have occurred over a while, diet is considered to play a major role in the health of the heart and could impact the chances of heart illness. Some years before heart ailments were considered to be infrequent, as compared to the present situation. Heart diseases have been observed or diagnosed, in every other person. There is a strong connection between diet and heart ailments, with emerging scientific evidence.

Every area of heart health is influenced by what food items you consume. Some foods do affect several medical conditions such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammation i.e. the causes or factors for heart ailments. Your heart could be maintained in proper shape and reduces the risk for heart conditions if heart-healthy foods are included as a part of a healthy and well-balanced diet.

As mentioned above, Lifestyle factors which include Diet and Nutrition play a very important role in the origin of Heart diseases. This is mentioned in a paper which is written by the collaboration of the Israel Heart Association and the Israel Dietetic Association.

Food plays an important role in the life of an individual and there are various reasons apart from hunger due to which we consume food. A heart-friendly diet would consist of a whole, natural foods. It consists of very few processed and unhealthy foods. Sometimes individuals do know the importance of certain foods but they do not know how to include them in the day-to-day routine. Other things that act as a hurdle could be taste, expensive and availability of the product.

Fish

As we know fish is a high source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats. As per the American Heart Association, people should consume at-least two exchanges of fatty-fish/week. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered to contribute to the benefits of heart health. It is stated that if omega-3 fatty acids are consumed (rich source is fish), it reduces the harm for heart dysrhythmias which results in death, reduced triglycerides, decreased the rate of atherosclerotic plaque and decreases blood pressure. There was also a study done for the age group of 15 to 47 years among young healthy women, which was published in “an issue of hypertension”, which concluded that individuals who consumed less or no fish or omega-3 fatty acids at all have a higher chance of heart diseases (Strom and colleagues, 2012).

As per Bill, consumption of Salmon has shown amazing results for heart diseases especially for “what’s known in the medical arena as “trilogy of vulnerability.” This helps in stabilizing the harmful or unsafe plaque, stabilizes dysrhythmias, decreases triglyceride levels, anti-inflammatory, and reduces blood clots by thinning the blood.

Eating fatty fish does not only improve heart ailments but also it has been confirmed by Salge Blake that American Heart Association (AHA) also advises to consume two meals per week of fatty fish for the good of heart health. As we know fish is less in saturated fats, contains high amounts of protein, it also replaces other foods that are bad for health such as “fatty meat or poultry with skin.”

Whole Grains

Whole grains are an excellent source for dietary fiber, also consist of nutrients such as Vitamin B, Iron, Vitamin E, Polyphenols, Magnesium and Selenium. American Heart Association advises consuming approximately six to eight exchanges of whole grains daily.

Oats contain a good quantity of soluble fiber beta-glucan which helps to lower the levels for LDL Cholesterol. According to Brill, Oats also contains a distinctive antioxidant named as avenanthramides. This would help decrease the risk for heart diseases by lowering LDL Cholesterol, total Cholesterol and triglycerides.

It would be beneficial to cut-out refined carbohydrates and replace them with whole-grain carbohydrates. Some suggestions like replacing white rice with brown rice or white pasta with whole-grain pasta. These would be minor changes that are included and this helps replace a less healthy food dish with a heart-friendly whole-grain option. Along with the type of food, portion sizes also matter.

Studies have depicted that consumption of whole grains helps reduce cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure along with a reduction in heart diseases.

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts are a good source of healthy fats, antioxidants, phytosterols, protein and fiber and therefore helps in preventing heart ailments. A uniform consumption of nuts and seeds are linked with a decrease in the harm/danger for heart disease and type 2 diabetes (which is one of the harmful factors/causes for heart diseases). As per Salge Blake, Nuts could be consumed as snacking options. They contain good amounts of fiber and protein and increases fullness. The main point of concern here is controlling the portion sizes while consuming healthy foods as anything in excess is dangerous. It would be easier to control the portion sizes by putting the nuts in a Ziploc bag after portioning them, to avoid over-eating of caloric rich nuts.

Two of the most distinctive nuts and seeds that provide good health benefits are walnuts and flax-seeds. These are high in fiber, protein, anti-oxidants, Vitamin E and Omega-3 Fatty Acid (ALA). Brill states that heart diseases could be reversed if individuals consume diets higher in alpha-linolenic acid.

In one of the studies done in December 2011 which was issued in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology stated that if the grounded form of flax-seeds is added to the daily diet it would decrease the chances of coronary artery disease by avoiding the blocking measures of cholesterol and “hydrogenated trans-fatty acids.” They could be advised to add flax-seeds on oat porridge as a breakfast option, added to yogurt or fruit smoothies/milkshakes, curries, soups or salads. It could also be added in the batter of cookies, muffins, breads, cakes, dhoklas and more. It could be added to home-made granola bars. This overall increases the intake of ALA.

Fruits and Vegetables

As we know that fruits and vegetables contain a good amount of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, and these substances help protect against heart conditions. Substances such as flavonoids or phytochemicals like flavonols and proanthocyanidins are present “naturally” in onions, tomatoes, berries, cabbage, apple. It has been proved beneficial to consume flavonoids as it helps reduce the harm/danger for heart ailments. These have been mentioned by McCullough and colleagues in February 2012 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” There have also been benefits seen to the heart by the consumption of anthocyanins i.e. a class of flavonoids found majorly in berries i.e. blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, brinjal, purple cabbage. Benefits for heart includes increases the functioning for endothelial and decreases inflammation that results in heart diseases.

Consumption of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are a major source of Vitamin K i.e. helps in protecting the arteries and helps inappropriate clotting of the blood. They also benefit in controlling blood pressure as Vitamin K is rich in dietary nitrates that reduce the hardness of the arteries and increases the proper activity of the cells that line the blood vessels. There was a study done that showed a link between reduced risk of heart condition by 16% and the consumption of green leafy vegetables.

In one more study that consisted of 29,689 women, it depicted that consumption of green leafy vegetables reduces the harm/danger for coronary heart disease.

One should include “colorful vegetables and fruits just like a rainbow”, consisting of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli to purple and dark-red colored varieties such as beet and brinjal.

Consumption of a variety of vegetables acts as a protection for heart conditions, increases the levels of antioxidants in the body and maintains it throughout the day.

Fruits would also help to increase the antioxidant levels, which reduces the LDL oxidation and acts as protection towards the improper functioning of the endothelial that increases the risk for atherosclerosis.

Legumes

These consist of various types of beans, lentils, peas and more. They consist of a good quantity of fiber, protein and several heart-healthy nutrients. It consists of good amounts of fiber, which lowers the levels of LDL Cholesterol. Brill mentions soy also to be one of the important foods that help protect heart health. Soy helps by reducing the LDL levels and is rich in fiber, antioxidants, protein, and estrogen similar substances.

To prevent heart conditions, chose beans and legumes instead of high-fat meat and poultry as they contain high amounts of soluble fiber that reduces the cholesterol levels.

Avocados

They consist of good amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids which helps in the reduction of cholesterol levels and heart ailments. There was a study done, with 3 cholesterol-lowering diets among 45 people who are obese and overweight. In this one group was asked to consume one avocado per day. It was observed that the group which consumed one avocado, helped reduce “LDL” Cholesterol i.e. bad cholesterol that is considered to increases the chances for heart ailments.

There was another study conducted among 17, 567 individuals which showed that if avocados are consumed regularly, they reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome to 50%. Avocado is rich in potassium and this nutrient is important for the health of the heart. The quantity of potassium present in one avocado is 975 mg.

As summary avocados help decrease the chances of cholesterol, hypertension, stroke and metabolic syndrome.

Dark Chocolate

This consists of good amounts of flavonoids i.e. an antioxidant which helps in improving the health of the heart. It has also been seen in various studies that depict the consumption of chocolates reduces the chances of heart ailments.

It had been seen a large study that showed individuals who consumed higher than five times per week of chocolates depicted a 57% reduction in coronary heart disease (CAD) than the individuals who did not consume chocolates.

There was a reduction in 32% of having a risk of calcified plaque in the arteries if chocolate was consumed two times per week.

But chocolates also contain high quantities of sugar and calories, which nullifies more of the health benefitting characteristics. Important to consume dark chocolate which is of a higher quality containing at-least 70% of cocoa. Consumption should be in moderate amounts.

Tomatoes

It contains lycopene which has great antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help fight against the free-radicals, avoids any damage by oxidation and inflammation which results in heart conditions. If amounts of lycopene are low in the body it results in higher chances of heart ailments and stroke.

In a study done among overweight women, it depicted that consumption of two raw tomatoes four times per week increases the amounts of HDL Cholesterol i.e. good cholesterol.

If levels of HDL Cholesterol is high, it helps flush out extra cholesterol and plaque via the arteries for the heart to be healthy and protection against heart issues and stroke.

Garlic

Garlic is considered to be one of the most natural remedies for the treatment of heart diseases. There is a substance named allicin present in garlic that helps improve heart health and has various therapeutic effects.

In one of the studies, it was shown that the extract of garlic if taken in 600-1500 mg every-day for 24 weeks is shown to be efficient and similar to a drug that was prescribed to reduce or control hypertension.

There was one compiled review that depicted that consumption of garlic helps in the reduction of total cholesterol by 17 mg/dl and LDL Cholesterol i.e. “bad cholesterol”, by 9 mg/dl for those individuals who are suffering from high cholesterol levels. There are also benefits such as reduction in the blood clots or stroke due to suppression of platelet build-up by consumption of garlic extract.

For the formation of allicin in garlic, it is important to consume garlic in the raw or crushed form and allow it to be settled for some time before used for cooking.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and dangers for chronic ailments. It also consists of good amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids.

There was a study done among 7,216 adults who were at a higher risk of heart ailments which showed that those individuals who consumed olive oil, there was a 35% reduction in the development of heart issues.

With an increase in consumption of olive oil, 48% chances of death from heart diseases. Olive oil consumption has also shown a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Edamame

It is a soybean that is immature. This has been mostly seen in the Asian tradition. This product is also rich in isoflavones i.e. a kind of flavonoid that helps reduce cholesterol and increases the health of the heart. Apart from isoflavone it also consists of dietary fiber and antioxidants.

In one study it depicted that consumption of 50 grams of soy-protein every-day reduces bad cholesterol i.e. LDL Cholesterol by approximately 3%. This all would should better results if done in combination with a proper diet and lifestyle changes.

Green Tea

This provides various benefits to health such as higher burning of fat and increases the sensitivity of insulin. It also consists of good amounts of polyphenols, catechins that have antioxidant properties that help avoid damage to the cells, inflammation, and protection of heart health.

As per one of the reviews that consisted of 20 studies, it was seen that consumption of “green tea catechins”, is linked with the reduction of LDL and total cholesterol levels.

In one more study that was an analysis done among 1,367 individuals that showed consumption of green tea reduced blood pressure i.e. both systolic and diastolic.

Coffee

Coffee consists of substances such as flavonols. Frequent consumption of coffee has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. It has been depicted that consumption of 2 to 4 cups of coffee every-day, reduces the risk for heart issues by approximately 20%.

Red-Wine

As per Brill, red wine consists of polyphenols such as resveratrol, procyanidins, and quercetin. This helps improves the defense system of the heart. It is beneficial to consume one glass per day for women and men two glasses. Red-wine helps in increasing the size of HDL particles along with the levels of HDL levels. This is helpful as it is important for us not only to know the number of HDL particles an individual has, but also the size needs to be huge and fluffy.

Dairy Products

These products if low in fat, show good results on heart as they consist of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and protein (casein and whey) and vitamins (riboflavin and vitamin B12). Apart from these since dairy products are also high in saturated fats, so it might depict adverse effects on heart diseases. There has been evidence that conflicts on the link between the intake of dairy products and heart diseases.

Conclusion

Whatever an individual places on the plate has an influence on every area of the health of the heart, ranging from hypertension to cholesterol and triglycerides. Your heart can be kept in shape and reduction of harm/danger to heart issues is possible by consumption of heart-friendly foods i.e. nutritious and well-balanced diet with proper lifestyle changes.