Eating smart for your heart is a great idea, no matter if you are young and healthy, or elderly and suffering from heart problems. Your diet is often the best place to start when it comes to improving your health. This is especially true for your heart because many foods in the Standard American Diet cause higher levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and inflammatory markers.
In addition to watching what you eat, it can be beneficial to control your portion sizes, limit unhealthy fats, and choose low-fat protein sources. Regular cardiovascular exercise can also play a big role in your efforts to improve heart health. When it comes to controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, though, you should focus on eating more of the following foods. You’ll notice that all of these foods are plant-based, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or legumes. Besides boasting incredible nutritional profiles, these foods are very tasty.
Pick a berry, any berry! Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries all contain vital antioxidants, like anthocyanins, that protect against inflammation and oxidative stress. Both of those can increase your risk of developing heart-related illness. One study monitored 33 obese adults, half of which ate two and a half servings of berries for a four-week period. After the study, the group that ate berries significantly improved insulin resistance and lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. A separate analysis of 22 studies found that eating berries helped lower systolic blood pressure, body mass index, and certain inflammatory markers.
Researchers note that the soluble fiber in oats, and other whole grains, can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Oats alone will not solve your heart problems, though. In addition to the heart-healthy fiber in oats, health experts advise that you reduce your intake of saturated fat if you want to reduce the risk of heart disease. A half-cup serving of oats contains two grams of soluble fiber, making oatmeal an excellent breakfast option. Just don’t add a bunch of sugar and unhealthy toppings.
Rich in monounsaturated heart-healthy fats, avocados should be one of your go-to foods to improve the health of your heart. According to several studies, avocados exhibit lipid-lowering and cardioprotective properties. For example, one study monitored three cholesterol-lowering diets in 45 overweight people. One of the groups consumed one avocado per day, and that group experienced reductions in LDL cholesterol, which can significantly increase the risk of heart attack. In addition to the heart-healthy fats, avocados also contain potassium, a nutrient that helps to reduce the amount of sodium in the body. That can go a long way towards reducing your blood pressure.
Beans contain resistant starch, which actually resists digestion and gets fermented by your gut microbiome. Resistant start positively affects the gut, improving resident microbiota. One older study of 16 people found that eating pinto beans reduced blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. A review of 26 studies found that diets higher in beans and legumes significantly reduced LDL cholesterol. Plus, eating more beans can help you reduce blood pressure and inflammation, according to researchers.
There are many nutrients in beets that are beneficial for your heart. They contain potassium, nitrates, folate, manganese, vitamin C, and iron. Out of those nutrients, the potassium and nitrates stand out. The body converts dietary nitrates from beets into nitric oxide, which works to dilate blood vessels. In doing so, you lift the stress off your heart and may improve blood pressure. Beet juice is the most concentrated way to reap these heart-healthy benefits, but make sure the juice is cold-pressed and free of added sugars.
Almonds exhibit a very impressive nutritional profile, boasting a long list of heart-healthy vitamins and minerals. Two of the standout nutrients are monounsaturated fats and fiber, both of which help protect the heart from disease. Researchers found that eating almonds can also positively affect cholesterol levels. One study monitored people with high cholesterol who ate 1.5 ounces of almonds a day for six weeks. They were able to reduce belly fat and LDL cholesterol levels, two risk factors for heart disease.
Since ancient times, people have used garlic in various medicinal applications. In recent years, researchers have identified that garlic contains nutrients that help to improve heart health. Garlic contains allicin, a compound that exhibits a series of therapeutic benefits. One review of 39 studies found that garlic extract can inhibit platelet buildup, which may reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots. Additionally, garlic may be able to lower LDL cholesterol levels and help regulate blood pressure.