Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and can be prevented by choosing to eat nutritious foods that help keep your arteries clear. You may be asking what causes congestive heart failure? Some common causes are alcohol abuse, high blood pressure and unhealthy eating habits. Research has found that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and healthy fats will help your overall cardiovascular health. Certain foods can influence blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation, which are all factors associated with heart disease.
With that in mind, here are five foods you should be eating to maximize your heart health:
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Compared to other oils, olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce both blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Extra-virgin olive oil, made by mechanically pressing olives, is the least processed, so it retains its natural antioxidants and vitamins. Whenever you can, try substituting extra-virgin olive oil in place of unhealthy saturated fats such as butter. Drizzle it over a salad or saute some veggies in it — either way, it will be beneficial for your heart health.
Nuts such as almonds, cashews, peanuts and walnuts are nutrient-dense and rich in fiber, protein and polyunsaturated fats, which keeps you full. Nuts are a great, healthy alternative to processed snacks. Try choosing a bag of trail mix or mixed nuts to get the advantage of the nutrients in different types of nuts.
Another healthy fat to add to your diet is salmon. Salmon contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve risk factors for heart disease. Omega 3s can cause a reduction in triglycerides, reduce blood pressure levels and raise “good” cholesterol levels. The recommendation is to eat salmon or other fatty fish, such as tuna or mackerel, at least twice a week. Or you can opt to take omega-3 dietary supplements.
Steel-cut and slow-cooked oats are full of fiber and help your heart by reducing “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels. Not only does oatmeal fill you up for hours, it also helps keep blood sugar levels stable and fights snack attacks. Try to avoid instant oatmeal though, as it often contains unnecessary amounts of sugar.
Quick tip: If you’re baking muffins, pancakes, breads or other baked goods, swap out ⅓ of the flour for oats instead.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are all amazing for your heart health. Berries are rich in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and help decrease your “bad” cholesterol levels. Berries are a satisfying snack, so try eating a variety to get all the health benefits.
The link between what we consume and our heart health is clear. It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet to promote heart health and keep our bodies happy. Include these foods in your daily diet to help minimize your risk for heart disease.