Heart disease can be a scary thing.
It is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, especially in developed nations like the United States.
Daily maintenance medications for heart health have become commonplace among adults, despite the fact that heart health can be managed with exercise and diet.
Fortunately, once you know what foods are heart-healthy, you can include them in your diet. Add these seven staples to your pantry, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier heart by positively influencing your blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and chances of inflammation.
1. Whole Grains
To be considered “whole,” a grain has to come in its total package: germ, endosperm and bran. This structure makes the grain higher in fiber than processed grains and allows your body to break down the nutrients slower.
The more gradual digestion means that, unlike other carbohydrates and starches, these whole grains won’t get converted to sugars and stored in fat cells. This process can help reduce LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, and decrease the risk of heart disease. Studies have also shown that eating whole grains on a daily basis can help to reduce systolic blood pressure and, in turn, the risk of stroke.
Berries offer unique health benefits because of how high they are in antioxidants. This family of fruits can protect your circulatory system from oxidative stress and inflammation that can contribute to heart disease.
Studies have shown a direct link between the inclusion of berries in the diet and a reduction in LDL cholesterol, as well as increased functionality in the cells that line blood vessels. Ultimately, this boost can help keep blood pressure at healthy levels. Whenever you can, add berries into your snacks, or even swap out a high-calorie dessert for a handful of fresh berries!
Beans contain resistant starch that is slowly broken down by the bacteria in your gut. Like with whole grains, this slower digestion is beneficial for your heart health. Beans also contribute to your health by decreasing levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Beans have also been connected with reduced blood pressure. Because they’re high in protein, beans can be a meaningful swap with foods like red meat that, when eaten in excess, can negatively affect heart health.
4. Dark Chocolate
Unlike more sugary candies, pure dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that people who eat dark chocolate have less calcified plaque in their arteries. These studies show a positive association between dark chocolate consumption and heart health, but they don’t take account of other factors, like exercise, that could be contributing to the participants better health.
Nonetheless, adding chocolate into your diet in moderation is a good idea. Make sure to choose a high quality dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and doesn’t carry the high calories and sugars.
Tomatoes are incredibly rich in lycopene, a natural pigment found in plants that has high antioxidant properties. Lycopene helps reduce inflammation and risk of stroke.
Eating tomatoes on a regular basis can help increase HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol works to remove excess cholesterol, as well as plaque from arteries. Like most plant-based foods, the highest nutritional benefit will come from consuming tomatoes in their raw state, but you’ll receive some health benefits from sauces and soups as well.
As far as nuts go, almonds reign supreme in nutrient richness. They contain many vitamins and minerals that contribute positively to heart health. These stone fruits are also high in healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber. Almonds are good sources of HDL cholesterol and help to reduce bad cholesterol, keeping arteries clear.
Remember that these nuts are high in nutrients but also high in calories. Add them into your diet in moderation.
7. Green Tea
Wherever there is a list of foods with health benefits, you’ll usually find green tea. Green tea is filled with antioxidants that help to protect cells against damage and reduce inflammation.
Studies have shown that drinking green tea is connected with lower overall cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol. Drinking green tea can help to decrease blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. Consuming green tea on a daily basis, eating or drinking matcha, or taking a green tea supplement could help you reap the heart-healthy benefits.
Healthy and Convenient
Making meaningful diet choices throughout your day, from your morning cup of tea to your after-dinner treat, can be so beneficial for your heart health. Delicious items like dark chocolate and almonds are easy to incorporate into your diet on their own. Other staples, like whole grains and tomatoes, can be worked into a whole range of recipes. What heart healthy choice can you make today?
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