Did you know the leading cause of death for both men & women in the U.S. is Heart Disease? The #1 symptom is high blood pressure which can be directly linked to both dietary and lifestyle choices. When it comes to lifestyle, make sure you are minimizing stress (think yoga & meditation), getting plenty of physical exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and limiting your alcohol consumption. When it comes to diet, make sure you are avoiding foods that are high in sodium (fried foods, some pre-made breads/pastries/muffins, cheese, store-bought salad dressings, chips, crackers, a good majority of restaurant foods & fast food, red meat, frozen dinners, pizza, packaged deli meats, pre-made soups, to name a few), foods high in sugar (soda, sweets, candy, desserts, processed foods), drinks with caffeine (soda, coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated tea), and over-consumption of alcoholic beverages (1 drink per day maximum – red wine is the best option).
Heart Healthy Foods:
- Fish: The healthy amounts of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, in particular EPA & DHA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid & Docosahexaenoic Acid) found in fish are crucial to our heart and brain health! The best sources include: Salmon, Mackerel, Halibut, Fresh Tuna, Anchovy, Herring, Sablefish, as well as Oysters and Mollusks.
- Additional Omega 3’s: There are plenty of plant-based foods that also contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Instead of EPA & DHA, plant-based foods contain ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) which also aids in cardiovascular health. The best sources include: Ground Flax Seed, Flax Seed Oil, Hemp Nuts and Oil, Canola Oil, Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Chia Seeds, Soybeans, Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Spinach, Fresh Basil, and Romaine Lettuce.
- Healthy Fats: Some additional “Healthy Fats” not mentioned above that increase heart health include: Avocados, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Almonds, Almond Butter, and Olives. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to consuming Healthy Fats, including Omega 3’s – You don’t need to eat a large portion of these foods to get the benefits!
- Fruits: Fruits contain a plethora of Vitamins, Minerals, Nutrients, Phytonutrients, and Antioxidants that help our bodies function. In particular, fruits help wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting the blood vessels and heart. The best sources to keep your bloodstream clean include: Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Papaya, Cherries, and Ripe Bananas.
- Veggies and Herbs: Vegetables, just like Fruits, contain Vitamins, Minerals, Nutrients, Phytonutrients, and Antioxidants that help our bodies function. The best sources for your heart’s health include: Asparagus, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Tomatoes, Broccoli, Leafy Greens, Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, Yams, Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Mint, Parsley, Basil, Ground Cloves, Watercress, Ginger, Tumeric, and Beets.
- Whole Grains and Legumes: Whole grains and Legumes are known for their rich sources of both protein and fiber. Fiber not only helps keep our digestive system healthy, but it also helps keep the blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure in check. Whole grains and Legumes also contain an abundant amount of essential nutrients including B Vitamins, Iron, Magnesium, and Selenium, which all help with heart functions. The best sources include: Oatmeal, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Black-Eyed Peas, Lentils, Garbanzo Beans, Navy Beans, Lima Beans, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Sprouted Grain Bread, Oats, Whole Wheat Pasta, Millet, and Barley.
- Water: Staying hydrated is critical in keeping your body alive and running. When you are even slightly dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker and your heart has to work harder to pump the thicker blood. Minerals in water are also essential in keeping your heart healthy, as they are more easily absorbed in water than in food, especially magnesium. Alkaline water is the best source for the added minerals, but filtered water is a good option too!
- Tea: Flavonoids and Antioxidants in certain teas are known to help with heart health, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Teas with caffeine should be consumed in small amounts, but those without are great to have everyday. The best non-caffeinated teas for the heart are: Safflower, Hibiscus, Passionflower, Rooibos, and Ginger.
- Red Wine: Red wine contains Flavonoids and Antioxidants, in particular the Polyphenol called Resveratrol, that are said to help keep the heart healthy. Resveratrol has been shown to prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce “bad cholesterol” levels, reduce inflammation, and prevent blood clots. However, there’s still a lot of research to do to conclude the heart healthy benefits, but we do know drinking more than one glass a day negates the health benefits, so be mindful of your consumption!
Heart Healthy Supplements:
If you do have any current heart issues, it’s always good to just double check with your doctor before adding a supplement into your diet. But all of these have been proven to help strength your heart health: Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin D Supplement (if you aren’t getting enough sunshine), Probiotic, and CoQ10.