By now, the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans is a well-known fact that isn’t showing any signs of changing. While our knowledge of treating heart disease is improving, prevention is still the best way to guard your health. One of the best things to do for your heart is to consider what you are putting into your body. These 10 superfoods offer a ton of heart-health-boosting benefits, making them a must for any smart diet.
Salmon is filled with a particular nutrient called omega-3 fatty acids, which is directly linked to reduced triglycerides and less plaque build-up in the arteries. This nutrient can also play a big role in the correction or prevention of abnormal heartbeats. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), eating at least two servings of salmon every week is highly recommended for a heart-healthy diet. Don’t love salmon? Try another fatty fish, like tuna or herring, or take an omega-3 supplement.
In an age where everyone is shunning starchy, white vegetables, the humble potato may be more important for your diet than you realize. Potatoes are high in potassium, which is vital in lowering blood pressure. They are also rich in fiber, which has been directly linked to less risk for heart disease. So long as you don’t deep fry your potatoes, they offer a ton of health benefits for your diet. Don’t love potatoes? Try other foods high in potassium and fiber, such as beans and broccoli.
Blueberries and strawberries are called superfoods for a reason. They offer very high levels of flavonoids and phytochemicals, both of which are linked to lower risk of heart attacks. The nutrients in blueberries and strawberries also help decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Choose berries with deep red and blue colors to get the highest anthocyanin content.
4. Dark Chocolate
Don’t say that science never gave you anything. In 2012, medical studies showed definitive proof that eating dark chocolate every day can reduce nonfatal strokes and heart attacks. Dark chocolate means anything over 60% cocoa, but it’s better to choose something closer to 70%. The polyphenols in dark chocolate reduce blood pressure, inflammation, and aid in the natural clotting process.
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Nuts are some of the best sources of fiber you can eat, and also contain vitamin E – a key player in lowering cholesterol. Any kind of nuts such as pistachios, peanuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds can offer these benefits. Choose a walnut and you also get omega-3 fatty acids that are present in fish.
6. Green Tea
Just like dark chocolate, green tea contains polyphenols to protect against heart attacks. Green tea also contains an antioxidant called catechins, which prevents cell damage in the cardiovascular system. In early 2016, research linked regular green tea consumption with fewer strokes and heart attacks, as well as more efficient metabolism. Doctors say that to get the most out of your green tea, it’s best to drink loose leaf, unflavored varieties.
Interestingly, garlic contains an enzyme that fights high blood pressure the same way that ACE inhibitor drugs do. In cultures where regular garlic consumption is the norm, studies have shown a correlation between garlic and less plaque in the blood vessels. By taking a garlic extract, plaque progression was slowed by as much as 50% in a UCLA study.
If you’ve been told that your LDL is too high, you may want to consider taking a more proactive approach. Preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol prevents the build-up of plaque in the first place. Pomegranate contains a unique antioxidant that not only performs this action but, also reverses plaque build up that has already occurred. Pomegranate juice may be an easier way to get a daily dose of this superfood.
Dark leafy greens like kale contain just about everything that defines a superfood. Lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of antioxidants, and a unique compound called glucoraphanin all work together to turn kale into a heart-health-boosting machine. These nutrients prevent plaque build up, protect against early atherosclerosis, reduce triglycerides and more.
10. Citrus Fruits
Oranges and other citrus fruits rival kale in the race for “best heart-healthy superfood”. The fiber present in oranges helps block the absorption of cholesterol. The potassium in citrus fruits helps keep blood pressure down, and citrus pectin can help to prevent congestive heart failure, something that even the best drugs can’t always do. To get the most of these benefits, be sure to consume the pulp by either eating oranges or choosing extra pulp juice. This is where the bulk of the good nutrients are found.
Protect Your Heart the Superfoods Way
While you can’t just add some chocolate to your diet and call it a day, adding a combination of these superfoods to your diet on a regular basis can help you lay the foundation for a healthy heart.