Heart disease is something that can happen at any age, and is increasingly common among younger adults. With February being Heart Disease Awareness Month, it’s a great time for people of all ages to learn more about what they can do to prevent heart issues and disease, both now, and later in life.
More than half of all Americans have a minimum of one top risk factor for developing heart disease. These factors include smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Adults as young as 35 are now at risk for heart disease.
Fortunately, you can do a lot just through your diet. Keep reading to learn 10 heart-healthy foods you can enjoy in your diet to improve your health.
1) Almonds: These are very dense with nutrients, providing many vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy heart. They also provide fiber and monounsaturated fats, both crucial nutrients for protection from heart disease. Studies indicate that having almonds can also be a robust defense against high cholesterol levels as well, where eating them for at least a month or two reduces belly fat and bad LDL cholesterol levels. Just watch your portions to avoid too many calories, which they pack a lot of.
For a great smoothie recipe that includes almonds, watch this quick video.
2) Avocados: These are already quite the rage among younger generations, but the fact that they’re on-trend doesn’t stop them from being heart-healthy. Another source of monounsaturated fats, these are known to lower heart disease risks and reduce cholesterol levels. Regular avocado eaters are only half as likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome, and one avocado has nearly a third of your daily recommended allowance of potassium, which lowers blood pressure and risk of stroke.
3) Beans: These have resistant starch. That makes digestion take longer, and the beneficial bacteria inside your gut get to ferment the beans. Animal research indicates that resistant starch lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which improves heart health. Limited human research has confirmed this to some degree, while also showing lower levels of blood pressure and inflammation, again two more heart disease factors.
4) Berries: Pick your flavor here. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries all are nutrient powerhouses that rich in antioxidants. Regardless of which one you choose, you’re going to get a good load of anthocyanins, which help your body fight off the inflammation and oxidative stress that lead to heart disease later. Berries also help manage bad cholesterol levels and prevent metabolic syndrome. They make a great snack, dessert, or smoothie ingredient.
5) Dark Chocolate: Likely to be a favorite of many on this list, dark chocolate also has antioxidants. In this case, it’s flavonoids. Five servings a week should lower your odds of plaque in your arteries by a third, and cut your risk of coronary heart disease in half, if not more. Just be sure the rest of your diet is also heart-healthy, and watch out for the sugar and calories that might offset the healthy benefits.
6) Fish Oil/Fatty Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are a holy grail of heart health, and you can get plenty of them with three weekly servings of things like tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon. The benefits include lower blood pressure, reduced fasting blood sugar, better triglyceride levels, and less cholesterol. If seafood isn’t your thing, a fish oil supplement can provide many of the same benefits.
7) Leafy Greens: Spinach, collard greens, and kale are famous for their rainbow of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Their vitamin K, in particular, promotes appropriate blood clotting and arterial protection. These foods also have dietary nitrates that reduce arterial stiffness, lower blood pressure, and improve the functionality of cells lining your blood vessels.
8) Tomatoes: Are they a fruit or a veggie? The debate may never end, but everyone can take advantage of their high levels of lycopene. This natural plant pigment has robust antioxidant properties, meaning it can counteract free radicals. This prevents inflammation and oxidative damage, both known contributors to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Eating tomatoes several times a week can boost your good HDL cholesterol that cleans off accumulations of plaque from your arteries.
For a good tomato recipe, watch this video.
9) Walnuts: These nuts are great for fiber, but also micronutrients such as manganese, copper, and magnesium. You can lower your blood pressure, bad cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
10) Whole Grains: These have all three of grain’s most nutrient-rich components. These include bran, endosperm, and germ. What you should look for in the grocery store are specific names like quinoa, buckwheat, barley, oats, rye, whole wheat, and brown rice. When contrasted with refined grains, these have more fiber. They are known to lower your risks of stroke and heart disease, while also reducing your levels of bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
The research as it stands now points out the link between heart disease and diet. While exercise, lifestyle, and genetics also play a part, what you eat goes a long way in determining nearly every facet of your heart health. Incorporate these foods into your daily diet in order to keep your heart in great shape while minimizing your risks of heart disease now and later in life. Start at any age you’re at so you can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammation.
If you’d like even more than these 10 foods, check out the honorable mentions that can easily go out to edamame, garlic, olive oil, green tea, and seeds. These five foods or groups serve many of the same purposes and benefits as the 10 heart-healthy foods listed here.
Also, keep in mind that a healthy diet for your heart should also be healthy for your overall body. Eating clean and under the right calorie ceiling can help you avoid or reverse diabetes, which is a huge risk factor for heart disease. Lower weight can also help you avoid or reduce obesity, and also give you more energy for exercise, as both of those are also crucial risk factors for heart issues.