Nutrition

The Best Foods For Improving Heart Health

Whether you’re currently concerned about your risk factor for heart disease or you are simply looking to ensure you are keeping your body in optimal health, paying attention to the foods that will best help you maximize your heart’s function is important. Every year millions of people worldwide die from heart related conditions and many of these conditions are largely preventable simply by taking steps to manage your diet. The foods you eat will either increase your heart health or can quickly take away from your heart health picture.

Wondering which foods are best? While most people are well aware of the obvious offenders – deep fried foods, sugary baked goods, or fatty cuts of meat, there are certain foods that tend to pack an extra punch as far as heart health goes. Think of these as foods that possess virtual super powers that will enable you to really kick your health up a notch. Let’s go over some of these foods right now so that you can start including them in your diet plan.

Olive Oil

Olive OilThe first heart healthy food to be adding to your diet is olive oil. Olive oil forms the basis for the Mediterranean diet plan, which is one that is well-known to offer great heart health benefits. Olive oil is a healthy form of dietary fat containing primarily unsaturated fatty acids, so it’ll help lower your levels of bad cholesterol while increasing your levels of good. Just do keep in mind that olive oil is very high in calories being an oil so use it in moderation. Any food eaten in abundance can be bad for your heart if it leads to weight gain.

Salmon

SalmonSalmon is another great food for a healthy ticker. This one is rich in protein content, so it’ll help stabilize your blood sugar levels. In addition to that, it’s also going to offer a powerful dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which will help to control insulin sensitivity levels, reducing blood sugar spikes and crashes. When you think insulin sensitivity, you may be fast to think about diabetes prevention and while this is one connection, it isn’t the only one. Each time your blood sugar is rapidly elevated, you’ll be at an increased risk of forming triglycerides in the body, which can go on to cause plaque on your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.

Beans

BeansNext on the list of heart health winners are beans. Chalk full of fiber, these will help lower your cholesterol levels, decreasing your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Beans are the perfect high-energy food to eat before exercise and will help you perform as optimally as possible. By adding them to your diet an hour or so before a workout, you may just find you push harder during that workout, increasing your heart health in the process. Furthermore, beans also contain flavonoids, which are compounds that help to protect the heart and inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood stream.

Walnuts

WalnutsNuts are another excellent food to get into your plan if you hope to increase your heart health. They’re virtually sugar free, high in fiber, will provide a small dose of both protein as well as healthy fat. Those who regularly include nuts in their diet plan tend to have lower levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol in their body and therefore reduce their risk of heart disease. Nuts are also rich in vitamin E, which may help to lower the formation of plaque in the arteries, lowering your risk of coronary artery disease.

When choosing your nuts, if you can, opt for walnuts more often than other nuts. Walnuts possess the healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which were found in salmon as well. While all nuts do contain healthy fats, it’s these fats that are most beneficial.

Apples

ApplesApples are the next great heart-health booster to get into your diet plan. Apples are high in pectin, which is a form of dietary fiber that will help to slow digestion, combat hunger, and lower cholesterol levels. At just 80-100 calories per apple (depending on the size), they’re great for snacks on the go. Pair an apple with some nut butter for double protection and a more balanced snack that will keep hunger low for hours ahead.

Dark Chocolate

Dark ChocolateThat’s right – you can indulge! Chocolate doesn’t have to be harmful provided you choose the right variety. Dark chocolate contains very little overall sugar content, which is what causes the problem with normal chocolate. What it does have though is plenty of antioxidants. Consuming dark chocolate in moderation on a regular basis can help to improve the function of your blood vessels, lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as help to prevent high blood pressure levels. Plus, treating yourself to a square of dark chocolate may also help lower stress levels as it will increase the level of serotonin released in the bloodstream.

As dark chocolate is still quite high in fat and calories, just do be sure that you are limiting yourself to just one or two squares per serving and account for them in your daily diet. It will add up quickly if you aren’t careful and will once again lead to weight gain.

Tomatoes

TomatoesFinally, the last great heart-healthy food to get into the picture when you’re aiming to improve your nutrition intake is tomatoes. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, as well as fiber, all of which help promote a healthy body and heart. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that offers protective benefits for the heart against cardiovascular disease and can also help prevent men from developing prostate cancer as well.

So there you have a closer look at the main foods to be adding to your diet if you hope to improve heart health and lower your risk for disease. All of these foods will not only get you a healthier ticker, but also help improve your overall health as well. Don’t underestimate the power of good nutrition when it comes to preventing disease.

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Shaw Academy

Updated: Nov 27, 2015

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