Dietary Lifestyle: At the Heart of the Matter
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so waking up to the perils, and acting on prevention rather than cure NOW, is a complete no-brainer. The good part is that heart disease builds over time so a course correction in dietary and lifestyle habits can reverse, cure and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Weight control and regular exercise are critical for the heart and overall health in general, but neglecting the importance of diet might not give intended results. Getting on a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by 80%. By understanding which foods and cooking methods work for or against heart health, can help you lower cholesterol, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy weight. No single food can make you magically healthy, so your goal can be to incorporate a variety of healthy foods cooked in healthy ways into your diet, and make these habits your new lifestyle. So here are some natural ways to prevent or manage heart disease, and take greater control over the quality and length of your life.
TOP 14 FOODS FOR HEART HEALTH:
- Raisins: Antioxidants in raisins fight the growth of a type of bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease. Studies have proved the relation with gum disease and heart diseases.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains contain antioxidants; phytoestrogens, phytosterols and soluble fiber that lower LDL are protective against coronary disease and help maintain a leaner frame.
- Beans: Soluble fiber in beans helps bind cholesterol and keep it from being absorbed in the gut. When fiber is fermented, it produces changes in short-chain fatty acids that can inhibit cholesterol formation. Beans contain a variety of heart-protective chemicals, including flavonoids that inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood, which can help lower risk for heart attack and strokes.
- Fatty Fish: Fish—especially “oily” kinds, such as salmon and tuna—contain omega-3 fats, which lower levels of triglycerides in the blood that may contribute to blood clotting. Omega-3s also lower blood pressure slightly and can help prevent irregular heart rhythms.
- Yogurt: Research shows that probiotics in yogurt protect against gum disease, reducing the risk of heart disease. It also improves digestion and boost immunity too.
- Nuts: Nuts are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fat, lowering incidence of heart disease.
- Dark Chocolate: Moderate amounts of flavanol-rich dark chocolate has a blood-thinning effect, which can benefit cardiovascular health and boost the immune system by reducing inflammation, and the compound epicatechin helps preserve the healthy function of blood vessels.
- Tomatoes: Along with Vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, fiber, tomatoes are high in lycopene, which works with other vitamins and minerals to prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Apples: The strong antioxidant flavonoid compounds found in apples—quercetin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol and other polysyllabic wonders—play a key role by preventing “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and decrease the buildup of plaque in arteries, as well as inhibiting inflammation. Apples are also rich in antioxidant-Vitamin C and pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol.
- Berries: Increases levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lowersblood pressure, two positives when it comes to heart health. The diverse range of polyphenols—a broad class of health-promoting plant compounds that includes anthocyanins and ellagic acid—provided by the mix of berries is likely responsible for the observed benefits like relaxed blood vessels.
- Pomegranates: Help reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries and lower blood pressure. Abundance of polyphenols—including anthocyanins and tannins gives it high antioxidant capacity.
- Bananas: The potassium in bananas helps maintain normal heart function and the balance of sodium and water in the body. Potassium helps the kidneys excrete excess sodium, thereby contributing to healthy blood pressure.
- Popcorn: Popcorn is a whole grain and delivers polyphenols—antioxidants linked to improving heart health, even more than kidney beans (the highest vegetable polyphenol source) and cranberries (the best fruit source).
- Green Tea: A daily cup of green tea significantly lowered their risk of developing gum disease (responsible for heart diseases)—the more tea, the lower the risk. The researchers believe antioxidants called catechins in green tea are the key. Catechins hamper the body’s inflammatory response to the bacteria that cause gum disease.
Foods to Avoid:
- Of all the possible improvements you can make to your diet, limiting saturated fats and cutting out trans fats entirely is perhaps the most important.
- Sugar increases blood pressure and triglyceride levels and leads to weight gain, a sugar-laden diet increases one’s risk of heart disease.
- Processed packaged food that contains excessive amounts of sodium.
- White or egg breads, granola-type cereals, refined pastas or rice.
- Red meat, bacon, sausage, fried chicken
- Egg yolks and whole milk products.
Along with the diet and exercise, the importance of a stress-free hoslistic mental approach towards life cannot be ignored. So eat well, think well and live well.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien