One in every four people dies from heart disease in the United States. If this number wasn’t alarming enough, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated that over 47% Americans are at risk. And with an increasing amount of people leading a sedentary lifestyle and consuming an unhealthy diet, the number of individuals at risk is at an all-time high. While you cannot control risk factors like age and family history, there are certain things that you can do to reduce the risk of heart disease. And eating the right diet is one of them. Here are some foods that are good for your heart.
1. Dark Chocolate
Who said healthy foods are not tasty? This guilty pleasure will not only keep your tastebuds overjoyed but also reduce your risk of heart disease! Dark chocolate (that contains over 70% cocoa) contains antioxidants called flavonoids that maintain arterial function and protect your heart from a stroke. However, eat no more than 3–4 squares a day.1 2 3 4
Over 8 studies have demonstrated the protective effect of avocados on cardiovascular (or heart) health. Avocados are made up of a combination of unsaturated fats that promote healthy blood lipids. They also contain antioxidants that prevent plaque deposit on the artery walls, prevent oxidative stress and reduce heart inflammation.5 6 Eating one-half of the fruit every day is enough to derive its benefits.
Berries (blueberries, strawberries, etc.,) are one of the topmost foods for heart disease prevention. They are high in anthocyanins, flavonols, vitamins, and fiber – compounds that reduce the risk of heart disease, especially in women.7 8 A small cup of 100g of berries is safe to be consumed on a daily basis.
4. Fatty Fish
Salmon and tuna for the win! Fatty fish contain high quantities of omega-3 fatty acids that improve the mechanical function of the heart, prevent plaque deposit, and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.9 Two servings of fatty fish a week is recommended.10 Alternately, you can also include fish oil in your diet, which is equally beneficial.11
Eating a handful of nuts every day is good for your heart. Not only are they rich sources of protein, they are also effective in maintaining cardiovascular health. Nuts, when eaten in moderation, manage cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and death from cardiac arrest.12 You don’t have to limit yourself to walnuts and almonds – even the humble peanuts are just as effective!13
It might be time to appreciate Popeye, for he was right all along! The dietary nitrate present in spinach keeps the heart healthy and reduces high blood pressure.14 It also contains an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which is known to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.15 Eat a cup of fresh spinach every day, but make sure that your spinach has dark green leaves.
7. Red Wine
Alcohol is bad for your body – no two ways about it. But drinking two glasses of red wine might actually help your heart! Red wine contains antioxidants like resveratrol, which could protect the heart from oxidative damage caused due to the scavenging effects of free radicals.16 However, there is no conclusive evidence to prove that red wine reduces the risk of heart disease, so use your judgment and avoid over-indulging.
The right diet isn’t a one-stop solution for your heart problems. Along with eating healthily, it is also important that you are physically active. The American Heart Association recommends that working out at least 30 minutes a day for at least 5 times a week can lower your risk.17 Additionally, avoid habits like smoking or excessive drinking, as they can increase the risk of heart disease.
|↑1||Eating chocolate may slightly lower your risk of stroke. NHS Choices.|
|↑2||Vlachopoulos, Charalambos, Nikolaos Alexopoulos, and Christodoulos Stefanadis. “Effect of dark chocolate on arterial function in healthy individuals: cocoa instead of ambrosia?.” Current hypertension reports 8, no. 3 (2006): 205-211.|
|↑3||Heart Disease Statistics. American College of Cardiology.|
|↑4||Heart disease facts. Centers for disease control and prevention.|
|↑5||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 7 (2013): 738-750.|
|↑6||Healthy eating. British Heart Foundation.|
|↑7||Basu, Arpita, Michael Rhone, and Timothy J. Lyons. “Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health.” Nutrition reviews 68, no. 3 (2010): 168-177.|
|↑8||Berries may lower women’s heart attack risk. Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑9||Kris-Etherton, Penny M., William S. Harris, and Lawrence J. Appel. “Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease.” (2003): 151-152.|
|↑10||Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. American Heart Association.|
|↑11||Weitz, Daniel, Howard Weintraub, Edward Fisher, and Arthur Z. Schwartzbard. “Fish oil for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.” Cardiology in review 18, no. 5 (2010): 258.|
|↑12||Ros, Emilio. “Health benefits of nut consumption.” Nutrients 2, no. 7 (2010): 652-682.|
|↑13||Peanuts linked to same heart, longevity benefits as more pricey nuts. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.|
|↑14||Jovanovski, Elena, Laura Bosco, Kashif Khan, Fei Au-Yeung, Hoang Ho, Andreea Zurbau, Alexandra L. Jenkins, and Vladimir Vuksan. “Effect of spinach, a high dietary nitrate source, on arterial stiffness and related hemodynamic measures: a randomized, controlled trial in healthy adults.” Clinical nutrition research 4, no. 3 (2015): 160-167.|
|↑15||Spinach. Number 14, volume 1. Center for nutrition, diet, and health.|
|↑16||Saleem, TS Mohamed, and S. Darbar Basha. “Red wine: a drink to your heart.” Journal of cardiovascular disease research 1, no. 4 (2010): 171-176.|
|↑17||American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. American Heart Association.|