Healthy foods are the back bone of a healthy diet. Whilst everyone wants a healthy life, only a few are willing to invest in their health. Investing in healthy will anchor you for a healthy life. That’s why investing in your heart health is worth it. In this article, we discuss amazing heart healthy foods which can improve your health.
Role of the balanced diet
Unhealthy diets are the main cause of heart problems. And pairing them with unhealthy dietary behaviours and lifestyles, creates ticking time bombs. When these bombs go off, you will have serious health problems. And on top of the list are heart health problems.
Unhealthy diets come from unhealthy foods or unhealthy dietary behaviours. These cause nutrient imbalances in the body. Excess fats and carbohydrates are a result of this nutrient imbalance. And they can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
What does this mean?
In other words, the diets cause the production of compounds that favour inflammation. And they also reduce the production of anti-inflammatory compounds. This fuels the inflammatory processes inside the body. And inflammation is not good for heart health.
On the other hand, healthy foods are rich in beneficial nutrients. And they can be used to form healthy meals. Healthy meals are the foundation of balanced diets. It is the balanced diets we need. Because they ensure optimal health. Why?
Balanced diets ensure that there are correct nutrient quantities and combinations. These drive all processes needed for optimal health. We must understand that a balanced diet is better than one single food in any situation. Because the nutrients in a balanced diet have synergistic effects. This synergy enables optimal nutrient interaction for the best results. The balanced diet, healthy eating habits and healthy foods all share similiraties that ensure optimum health. They ensure:
- High dietary fibre intake
- Antioxidants in the diet
- Adequate mineral intake
- Dietary phytochemicals. These include phytosterols and polyphenols.
- Healthy fats intake, this includes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Low dietary intake of salt
- Low diet refined foods and sugars.
- Reduced dietary intake of saturated fats.
- Intake of low glycemic index carbohydrates.
All these ensure that the body has all the nutrients it needs for optimum health.
It must be understood that balanced diets, healthy eating habits and healthy foods share common characteristics. These include:
- High dietary fibre
- Excellent portion control
- Enough dietary antioxidants
- Adequate dietary minerals and vitamins
- Healthy fats and low dietary salt
- Rich in phytochemicals
- Health benefits
Thus, we should incorporate heart healthy foods into our balanced diets. This ensures optimal heart health for everyone. And also cover requirements for other health problems that may arise. This article covers amazing heart healthy foods to prevent cardiovascular disorders.
But, what are cardiovascular disorders?
Cardiovascular disorders: What are they?
Cardiovascular disorders are diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. These include hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease and vein diseases.
Cardiovascular disorders develop due to several reasons. These include lack of exercises, unhealthy eating habits, poor dietary behaviours, genetic predisposition and unhealthy diets. Some of the behaviours are listed down below.
- Excessive sodium intake
- High consumption of refined and super-refined foods
- High dietary sweet foods
- Excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
- Intake of unhealthy fats
- Reduced intake of whole foods
All these behaviours can increase the risks of cardiovascular disorders. So what foods are good for heart health? Heart healthy foods ensure optimal heart health. But only in a balanced diet.
Heart healthy foods you should eat.
1. The Mediterranean diet: Is it a source of heart healthy foods.
This is not a single food, but the diet is made up of a group of healthy foods that are beneficial to heart health. The reason why it appears in the heart healthy foods list.
The diet itself is rich in nuts, vegetables, red wine, olive oil, fish, seafood and fruits. It also has a low meat intake.
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet to heart health
The Mediterranean diet offers substantial benefit to heart health. It protects the body against cardiovascular disorders. It improves control of cardiovascular disorder risk factors. The diet is rich in foods that help to improve the lipid profiles of blood. They do this by reducing blood LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The foods in the diet are whole. As a result, they improve glucose metabolism. They also help improve gut health by enhancing gut bacteria.
The diet also reduces arrhythmia risks. In arrhythmia, the heart irregularly beats putting an individual at risk. The Mediterranean diet also reduces inflammatory processes and oxidative stress in the body. This is because the diet is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. The inflammation is responsible for blood vessel and organ damage. It also reduces plaque stability in blood vessels. This disturbs the progression of atherosclerosis.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. The polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish and plants are beneficial to health. Especially heart health. Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet inhibit plaque formation in blood vessels. Therefore, they lower atherosclerosis risks. Whilst the plant-based phytochemicals also help reduce oxidative stress. This makes fish and plants excellent heart healthy foods.
Well, with all those benefits this diet is rich in heart healthy foods.
2. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)
Once again this is a diet that can provide heart healthy foods.
So, what heart healthy foods are in the DASH diet
The DASH diet involves a high intake of healthy foods that benefit heart health. A DASH diet is rich in fruits and non-starchy vegetables. It’s also rich in legumes which include, groundnuts, soy beans, peas, beans and lentils. The diet also contains healthy tree nuts, fish, poultry and whole grains. It is rich in heart healthy foods.
The diet also eliminates unhealthy foods. These include fatty meat cuts, red meat, processed meat, sweet foods and refined grains. Also read:
Benefits of the DASH diet on Cardiovascular health
- It improves blood pressure
- It improves body weight. This diet makes it easy to manage weight. And it’s also good for weight loss.
- People on the DASH diet have improved glucose and insulin regulation. This reduces the risks of insulin resistance or loss of insulin sensitivity. These 2 lead to type 2 diabetes. And diabetes is a cardiovascular disease risk factor.
- It reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. This is mainly due to the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the food.
- This diet improves the function of blood vessels and their endothelial integrity.
- It improves gut health by enhancing the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
- DASH diets reduce the risks of cardiovascular disorder deaths.
- Also, the diet reduces oxidative stress in women with gestational diabetes.
3. Fruits and vegetables are beneficial heart healthy foods
These foods are beneficial for cardiovascular health
How are fruits and vegetables good for heart health?
Multiple servings of fruits have been recommended daily by the European Society of Cardiology. This has been seen as an effective way to improve cardiovascular health. As well as to reduce cardiovascular health risks. Here are some of the benefits:
- Fruits and vegetables reduce the rate of adiposity in the body. This means they reduce and prevent fat gain.
- They also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
- No, saturated fats in fruits and vegetables. So they are good for cardiovascular health.
- They reduce hypertension as well as risks of stroke.
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. These include carotenoids, flavanols, vitamin E and vitamin C. All reduce oxidative stress.
- Vitamin C and E reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This is a critical step in atherosclerosis development.
- Fruits like avocados are rich in heart healthy nutrients. These include healthy unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants.
- Citrus, red bell peppers, and green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant that improves heart health.
- Fruits and vegetables ensure the reduction of inflammatory cytokines in the body. This improves cardiovascular health.
- Cruciferous vegetables induce the least amount of inflammatory cytokines. This reduces inflammation of the cardiovascular system.
- Fruits and vegetables also have a low glycemic load and energy density. This reduces weight gain and fat gain. Both of which are risk factors in heart health problems.
Therefore, this proves that fruits and vegetables are heart healthy foods.
4. Olive oil – is it a heart healthy food?
Yes, it is. Olive oil is the main oil in the Mediterranean diet. And it is the best oil for heart health. Especially the extra virgin olive oil.
So what is it with olive oil?
Olive oil-rich diets are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds. And we all know inflammation is a risk to cardiovascular health. Extra virgin oil is rich in bioactive compounds.
Benefits of olive oil to heart health
- Extra virgin olive oil improves the inflammatory status of the body.
- This oil is rich in antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress.
- It also reduces the endothelial dysfunction of blood vessels. Also, it strengthens the endothelium of the blood vessel.
- Olive oil also improves blood pressure in hypertension patients and non-patients.
- The oil reduces pro-inflammatory compounds associated with atherosclerosis.
- Olive oil is rich healthy fatty acids. These inhibit genes related to plaque formation in blood vessels.
- Olive oil also improves the body’s antioxidant capacity. It does this by increasing antioxidant enzymes in the body. And these minimise tissue damage from oxidative compounds.
So, yes! It’s not surprising that olive oil made it to heart healthy foods list.
Next on the list are the nuts. Nuts have a beneficial effect on heart health, especially peanuts and walnuts. These 2 nuts have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease cases and deaths.
Nuts benefits to heart health
Including nuts in your balanced diets gives a preventive effect against heart diseases.
Nut consumption 2 or more times a week reduces risks of cardiovascular diseases by 13-19%. It also reduces coronary heart disease risks by 15-23%. This is possible with healthy eating habits and balanced diets.
Nuts also have a unique nutritional composition. They are rich in:
- Unsaturated fatty acids
- Dietary fibre
- Other bioactive compounds.
So, this means regular consumption of nuts improves heart health as follows:
- This help reduces cardiovascular risk factors. These include dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Research shows that a Mediterranean diet supplemented by almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts reduces the incidence of cardiovascular diseases by 28%.
- Nuts are also good for weight loss diets. Which improves heart health.
- Nuts also reduce hypertension and levels of LDL cholesterol in the body.
- They also reduce hyperglycaemia and insulin resistance.
- Also nuts reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. All these benefits make nuts a worthy heart healthy food.
Oh yeah! I am not joking. Wine and beer can be heart healthy foods too. Here is the reason why.
Wine especially red wine contains phenolic compounds with beneficial effects against atherosclerosis. These compounds also decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. The oxidation of LDL cholesterol is harmful to vascular health. Phenolics in wine also reduce oxidative stress in the body. Also, they improve the functions of blood vessels.
The ethanol in wine and beer increases HDL cholesterol levels. And it also inhibits blood clotting. Of which blood clotting results in embolism formation which can lead to strokes.
Moderate consumption of wine reduces systemic inflammations that harm heart health. Red wine had anti-inflammatory properties. Whilst aged white wine repairs and maintains the endothelial integrity of blood vessels.
Beer is also a heart healthy food. Low to moderate consumption of beer has cardioprotective effects. Beer has a moderate polyphenol content. So it reduces cardiovascular risks. Low to moderate beer drinking improves HDL cholesterol levels. However, alcohol abuse can also inhibit absorption of essential nutrients. So, be very careful.
So with these benefits, your favourite beverages are good for heart health.
7. Legumes: Are they also heart healthy foods?
We cannot mention heart healthy food without legumes.
Legume foods include peas, beans, soybeans, lentils and peanuts.
Benefits of legumes to heart health
- Legumes are rich in phytosterols. These compounds have strong intestinal cholesterol blocking properties. In other words, they block cholesterol absorption in the gut. Good for heart health, right?
- Legume consumption reduces blood LDL cholesterol and improves blood HDL cholesterol.
- Soybean protein consumption reduces blood cholesterol levels. This is associated with reduced cardiovascular health risks.
- Legume consumption 4 times a week reduces risks of coronary heart disease risks.
- In healthy diets, legumes are healthy protein sources. They are low in saturated fatty acids which are not good for heart health.
- Legume consumption also reduces ischaemic heart disease risks.
- These foods are cholesterol-free they reduce dietary cholesterol intake.
- They are integral parts of heart healthy diets.
So, yes. Legumes are heart-healthy.
8. Whole grains
Whole grain cereals include whole grain bread, whole breakfast cereals and bran.
Where do whole grains come in? Well, here is your answer.
Consistent whole-grain consumption reduces cardiovascular health risks. It also reduces coronary heart disease and stroke risks.
This is because whole grains have a low glycemic index. This means they do not negatively affect blood sugar metabolism. As a result risks for weight gain and obesity are greatly reduced. These 2 conditions are not good for heart health.
Whole grains also reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes. And type 2 diabetes is a cardiovascular risk factor. This is a proof of the cardioprotective effects of whole grains.
Whole grain cereals also improve blood lipid profiles. Whole oats and rye have the highest benefits for heart health.
Rye and oats are rich in soluble fibres. These decrease serum cholesterol and blood pressure. These whole grains lower bp and have prebiotic effects.
We can’t talk about heart healthy foods without fish. Why?
Fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acid. These healthy fats have beneficial effects on heart health. The main sources are fish oils followed by fatty fish. The fatty fish types include sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon and herring.
Benefits of fish to heart health
- Can improve blood lipid profiles.
- Improves blood antioxidant properties.
- Lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Improves HDL cholesterol levels.
- This all reduces inflammation and plaque formation in blood vessels.
- Reduces total cholesterol levels.
- Have anti-high blood pressure and hemostatic effects.
- Fish consumption gives anti-atherosclerotic effects.
- Enrich the cell membranes.
- Improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels.
- Reduce synthesis and secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins. The worst form of cholesterol.
- Enhances serum removal of triglycerides
- Also protects the heart from irregular heartbeats.
Cardiovascular health is an important part of our health. With the number of deaths due to cardiovascular complications increasing, we should improve our heart healthy. One of the best ways to take care of your hearts is through eating heart healthy foods. What do you think?
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