8 Superfoods To Keep Your Heart Strong and Healthy
Deaths due to heart disease have dropped in recent years. To prevent heart attacks, avoid unhealthy food, and eat foods rich in nutrients, fiber, and healthy fats. It’s clear that healthy eating and living (like exercising more!) Can make a huge difference.
These soft, tasty fruits have a well-established reputation for providing the body and heart with healthy fats. Like olive oil, they’re rich in monounsaturated fats that may lower heart disease risk factors, such as cholesterol. They’re also high in antioxidants and and potassium, says Graf. They can be eaten on their own or blended into guacamole, perhaps with some heart-promoting tomatoes.
2. Red wine
Red wine, or small amounts of any type of alcohol, are thought to lower heart disease risk. (Higher amounts, more than a drink or two a day, can actually increase risk.) While some say a polyphenol found in red wine, resveratrol, that gives an added benefit beverage, research suggests that any type of alcohol in moderation works. As with coffee, though, none of these properties are a reason to start drinking alcohol, says Graf. You can also get resveratrol from non-alcohol sources, like natural peanut butter and grapes.
Not just blueberries, but strawberries and other berries as well. According to one recent study, women aged 25 through 42 who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack compared with those who ate less. The authors of the study attributed the benefit to compounds known as anthocyanins, flavonoids (which are antioxidants) that may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Anthocyanins give plants their red and blue colors.
Soy products, including tofu and soy milk, are a good way to add protein to your diet without unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Soy products contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats (good for your health), fiber, vitamins, and minerals. What’s more, soy may reduce blood pressure in people who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates. And compared with milk or other proteins, soy protein can actually decrease LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
5. Dark chocolate
Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, including one in 2012 that found that daily chocolate consumption could reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars do not make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.
6. Flax seeds
Flax seeds as well as the ultra-chic (among the health conscious) chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, says Graf. That’s one reason they’re good for your heart. Another reason is their high fiber content. Plus, there are a million ways to enjoy them. Try them ground up with other heart-healthy foods, such as dried blueberries, cranberries, or oatmeal or even blended with soy milk and fruit to create a smoothie.
Another widely consumed beverage-coffee-may also promote heart health. One study found a 10 to 15% lower risk of dying from heart disease or other causes, and men and women who drank six or more cups of coffee a day. Other research has found that even Monday, two cups a day could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 30%. It’s not clear where the benefit comes from and the news is not necessarily a reason to pick up the habit. “If you’re already drinking coffee and enjoying it, continue,” says Graf. “If not, there’s no reason to start.”
Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as dietary supplements.