The heart is one of the most important organs in the human body as it keeps our blood pumping, moving vital oxygen around the body, keeping us moving and, ultimately, alive. So why do so few of us take care of it?
According to The American Heart Association, over 42 million people in the United States alone live with some form of cardiovascular disease which can lead to such problems as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol as well as increasing the likelihood of suffering from a heart attack.
Smoking and being overweight both affect the health of your heart but so can having bad eating habits and so it is vital to stay active and maintain a healthy and balanced diet to keep your heart going. Here we take a look at a few foods that are good for the ol' ticker.
1. Citrus Fruit Such As Oranges
Pretty much all fruit and veg have health benefits in one form or another, but oranges are great for so many reasons. Lauded for their high levels of Vitamin C they also hold a lot of pectins which act as a soluble fiber.
That means that it can help prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream as well as helping draw some of it out of other foods. The potassium in the fruit also helps counterbalance sodium intake found in salty foods and thus keeps blood pressure in check as well.
Recent studies have also suggested that oranges can help neutralize certain proteins that can lead to scarring of the heart tissue which thus puts more strain on it. Other fruits like this are cantaloupes and papaya which are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
2. Kale & Spinach
Leafy greens are fantastic for all sorts of things, and there is a reason why you were always told to finish them as a child growing up. Kale contains heart-boosting antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids in decent quantities and is thus great for the heart.
Spinach is much the same and really packs a punch and so both are a great alternative to lettuce in salads or sandwiches.
Noted for its vampire repelling abilities, garlic may or may not be useful at keeping the undead at bay but that doesn't mean it isn't good for you and it still can benefit your blood flow. In fact, garlic is so good for the heart, it may be able to reverse some damage done.
Research has found that the tiny cloves help reduce an enzyme known as angiotensin, which constricts blood vessels whilst those suffering from plaque buildup can find it almost halved by regularly taking garlic extract in a pill form. Incorporate it into your cooking, and you may never find the need to be taking it in pill form come later life.
4. Red Wine
Take this advice with a with a pinch of salt (not literally because salt raises blood pressure) as alcohol consumption has been linked with all sorts of illnesses but moderate and sensible consumption of red wine can actually be good for you.
A 4-ounce glass of red wine (up to two for men and one for women per day) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels which reduce the likelihood of clotting and keeps your blood vessels flexible. Some studies have found that a single glass of wine can even be more effective than an aspirin in some cases.
5. Dark Chocolate
Another piece of advice that should be heeded with caution and moderation. Raw cocoa has rich compounds known as flavanols, and dark chocolate is known to have higher levels of it than other types of the sweet treat. These flavanols can help increase blood vessel flexibility, lower blood pressure, and prevent heart disease.
However, this means that the chocolate should be at least 70% cocoa to maintain any of the benefits that can be counteracted by the large addition of milk and sugars.
Most types of cold water and oily fish are pretty high in Omega-3 fatty acids and sardines are a prime example of containing these which can help lower triglyceride levels in the body, raise good cholesterol, and reduce inflammation in the body.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and trout are also brilliant for this and offer up greater variation for your fishy options.
People who have a high diet of legumes run a much lower risk of suffering from heart disease than others, and this is especially true of lentils that are high in protein, magnesium, and potassium, which can help reduce the risk for plaque in the blood vessels.
They also aid in the reduction of blood pressure, an early warning sign of heart disease.
8. Healthy Nuts
Some nuts can be good for your heart provided they are not covered in salt and oil, and these include walnuts and almonds, with a handful of these going a long way to combating hunger and cravings for other foods.
Almonds, in particular, prevent absorption of LDL (bad cholesterols) thanks to a high amount of plant sterols with studies showing those who eat Almonds being up to 28% likely to suffer from heart disease.
Another super fruit for your heart are pomegranates that are high in anti-oxidants and have a unique blend that really goes some way to strengthening your internal beatbox.
By drinking 80z of pomegranate juice daily, atherosclerosis patients were actually able to reduce the plaque that had begun to accumulate within their arterial walls.
Berries are quite often filled with soluble fiber and phytonutrients meaning that they can help reduce the buildup of cholesterol within the walls of your arteries.
Certain berries like Blueberries are high in antioxidants that go some way to fighting free radicals that can cause cancer, as well as heart disease although they do have a tough time entering the bloodstream and so quite large quantities have to be consumed, so it is best to make sure you get a good mix of them.
The salad vegetable with a distinctive purple hue has far more use than spicing up a sandwich as it is an excellent source of folate and betaine.
These are both found to reduce the level of homocysteine in the body, something that causes inflammation in the heart and can lead to further damage.
A high cholesterol level can lead to other health problems as it can mean that the fat in your bloodstream clogs up arteries and contribute to many cardiovascular diseases. Turmeric helps with maintaining these levels and is so effective in doing so that it has been found that just using it as a food seasoning can reduce serum cholesterol levels.
Maintaining a healthy cholesterol is important and takes more than just eating Turmeric every now and then. However, Turmeric is such a great food for health we have previously expanded on its abilities here.
13. Chia Seeds
Often lauded for their concentration of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds have been linked to a healthier heart and a decrease in the chances of heart disease or depression. However, the oil in chia seeds actually needs to be processed before it unlocks its beneficial potential for the heart and so it is hard to get a great deal out of the seeds.
As such, fish oils or a nice bit of salmon are considerably more advantageous than a helping of these seeds, however, they are great to top off certain dishes and will lend a hand in helping out your heart.
There are so many varieties of apples that all contain a unique set of nutrients and associated health values as well as different textures and flavors to keep you interested, but the nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins make them a great food for health benefits.
They can assist with lowering blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
Containing a whole range of vitamins that are great for the heart, a few, fresh florets of broccoli is a great way to keep your inner health in check.
Filled with vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber the benefits of this green machine are numerous.