The statistics for deaths caused by heart disease make for some grim reading. Heart disease, and other cardiovascular problems, is responsible for more deaths in the US than any other disease. Cardiovascular diseases claim even more American lives than all the different forms of cancer put together. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just a problem in the US, though, the statics for many other Western countries are just as bad. You can, though, dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease by simply following a healthy diet and taking regular exercise. Here are ten foods that will help to protect you from the risk of cardiovascular disease.
1. Olive oil
Olive oil is one of very well known heart healthy foods. Following the Mediterranean diet has been proven to be a way to protect you against heart disease. It’s not just all the fresh fish and vegetables that the Mediterranean’s enjoy that keeps their hearts healthy, it’s also the olive oil that they eat. Olive oil contains the monounsaturated fats that lowers the levels of the bad LDL cholesterol in the blood and reduces the risk of your developing heart disease.
Oatmeal also deserves its place in our list of heart healthy foods. Eating oatmeal for breakfast will help to reduce the levels of the bad cholesterol in your blood. The best types of oats to eat are the steel cut variety. They will provide you with lots of fibre, potassium, folates, and omega-3 fatty acids. Oatmeal is the perfect way to start your day and it will provide you with a source of energy that will last you all the way to lunchtime.
Berries of any kind are good for the cardiovascular system, but blueberries and blackberries are considered to be the best. Berries contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, which will help to reduce your risk of heart disease. They also contain antioxidants, which will help to protect you against cancer.
4. Red wine
A glass of red wine a day can increase the good cholesterol in your blood and strengthen your arteries. Red wine helps to protect your arteries because it contains powerful antioxidants called catechins and resveratrol. Like any alcoholic drink, though, too much red wine will cause more harm than good, so stick to recommended one glass a day for women and two for men.
Walnuts are a great tasting snack and one of wonderful heart healthy foods, you can use them in cooking, baking or add them to salads. They contain those all-important omeag-3 fatty acids that help to protect your heart and, in one recent study that was conducted on mice, it was found that walnuts can reduce cholesterol levels and plaque in the blood too. In the test that was conducted on mice, walnuts reduced cholesterol levels by up to 25%.
Salmon and other oily fish are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and eating salmon will reduce your blood pressure and help to stop clots forming in the blood. Adding fish like salmon, tuna and sardines to your diet, can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by 30%, if you eat two servings every week.
There is a lot more to apples than meets the eye. Everyone knows that an apple a day is said to keep the doctor away, but it will keep you from needing an appointment with a cardiologist too, because apples are also a part of heart healthy foods. In one study that was conducted by Tufts University, researchers found that people who ate an apple a day reduced their cholesterol levels by a whopping 40%. It is believed that is the polyphenols that are contained in apples that were responsible for this lowering of bad cholesterol.
A little sprinkling of flaxseed over your morning breakfast cereal, or added to your smoothies, could go a long way towards protecting you against heart disease. The seeds are very high in fibre, which help to stop cholesterol building up in your blood, and they are also a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
9. Dark chocolate
While fresh fruit and vegetables play a big part in protecting your heart, and keeping your blood pressure under control, eating a small piece of dark chocolate can also be very good for the cardiovascular system as well. Chocolate that contains at least 80% cocoa provides you with sufficient amounts of the flavonoid called flavonol, to lower blood pressure and improve the flow of blood to your heart.
10. Black beans
We finish our list of heart healthy foods with black beans, which are a great source of protein, but they don’t contain the bad cholesterol that fatty meats do. They also contain heart-healthy nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex vitamins, magnesium and calcium. Black beans can be eaten as a side dish on their own or added as an ingredient to many other dishes like soups and salads.
What are your favourite heart healthy foods?
(via WH Foods)