Food Diet

The 5 Healthiest Foods for Heart Health

You already know you need to ditch salty, fried and processed foods to keep your heart healthy. You might not know the best foods for heart health, we’ve got the top 5!

By Melodie Anne Coffman ∙

Heart problems are still the No. 1 killer of Americans. We know that exercise can make a tremendous difference to our heart health, but our eating habits can also prevent heart disease, including strokes and heart attacks. Julie Zumpano, a dietitian in the Preventive Cardiology and Nutrition Program at Cleveland Clinic, says that “You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day. There is a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart”. Although there isn’t a cure-all food, we’ve found the best foods for heart health.

You already know you need to ditch salty, fried and processed foods to keep your heart healthy. You might not know the best foods for heart health — the ones that actually improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure and provide nutrients that act like little ninja warriors in your bloodstream. The top foods that are beneficial for your heart health are not as boring as you may think.

5. Coldwater Fish

Some types of fish are beneficial for your heart’s health. Cold-water fish, such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring—have an extra layer of fat to help them survive through frigid temperatures. While the thought of extra fat may send you running in the other direction, your heart actually needs this fat, known as omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, not only drop your bad LDL cholesterol, they help raise your good HDL cholesterol. You want that. The more HDL cholesterol you have in your body, the more protection your heart has. “Omega-3s have an anti-clotting effect, so they keep your blood flowing,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. The omega-3 fatty acids also lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up inside the arteries). The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week or taking omega-3 dietary supplements.

4. Dark Chocolate

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Yes, you read that right. Dark chocolate is good for your heart. You need chocolate that is at least 60 to 70 percent cacao, so not the typical candy bars you find at the checkout at the grocery store. According to Australian researchers, dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids that can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by improving blood pressure. Flavonoids make blood vessels flexible, keeping blood flowing through steadily. The study, published in the 2012 edition of the “British Medical Journal,” found that among research participants who already had high blood pressure, those who ate dark chocolate daily were more likely to have reduced blood pressure level.

Don’t start skipping dinner and having a chocolate bar instead, however. All you need is a few squares each day, or roughly 1 ounce. In 2012, a study even showed that eating quality dark chocolate daily can help to reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk. Unfortunately, there aren’t any health benefits of the consumption of milk chocolate.

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