13 Awesome Superfoods For Your Heart

Superfoods have been around for a long time, but it is only recently that researchers have found that superfoods can be beneficial for people with heart disease or high cholesterol.1 There are many superfoods that are great for your heart. Some of these can help reduce inflammation, lower your cholesterol levels, and slow down the formation of plaque – all factors that help reduce the risk of heart disease.

A good diet is necessary to have a healthy heart. You should ensure that you consume plenty of:

  • Whole-grain foods
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Protein-rich beans
  • Fish and skinless poultry
  • Low-fat dairy products

At the same time, you should restrict or avoid the intake of:

  • Red meat
  • Sugar and sugary drinks
  • Refined grains
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • And junk food in general.

However, even if you know about all this, it still becomes difficult to find the best superfoods for your heart. Here are some of the best superfoods for your heart.

13 Awesome Superfoods For Your Heart

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like collard greens, kale, and spinach are famous for being powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and many other essential nutrients that your body needs.

Green leafy vegetables are especially a great source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for protecting your arteries and promoting proper clotting of blood.2,3

Green leafy vegetables are also rich in dietary nitrates, which are known to lower your blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, and also improve the functioning of the cells that line your blood vessels.4

Several studies have also found that there is a link between a higher intake of leafy green vegetables and a lower risk of heart disease. For example, a 2010 study done on 29,689 women participants found that an increased intake of leafy green vegetables was linked to a dramatically lower risk of heart disease.5 Another analysis of eight studies discovered that increasing the intake of leafy green vegetables was linked with a 16 percent lower rate of coronary heart disease.6

You can include the following leafy greens in your diet:

All types of berries are good for your heart. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are all powerhouses of many critical nutrients that play a significant role in your heart health. Berries are also a rich source of antioxidants like anthocyanins. Anthocyanins help protect against inflammation and oxidative stress that are known to contribute to the development of heart disease.7

Studies have found that consuming a lot of different types of berries can help reduce many of the risk factors for heart disease. For example, a 2010 study carried out in 27 adults with metabolic syndrome found that having a drink made of freeze-dried strawberries for eight weeks lowered the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol by 11 percent.8

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of medical conditions that are linked with an increased risk of heart disease.

Another 2015 study found that consuming blueberries every day helped improve the functioning of the cells that line your blood vessels. This helps control blood clotting and blood pressure.9

The following year in 2016, an analysis of 22 studies found that consuming berries was associated with a decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and several other markers of inflammation.10

Berries can make for a delicious low-calorie dessert and a satisfying snack that you can munch on through the day. However, it is essential to understand that berry-flavored baked foods do not count as being beneficial to your health. Bakery items are usually loaded with sugar and fat that can be harmful to your heart. So to benefit fully from this superfood, you should opt for eating fresh berries. It is best to include different types of berries in your diet.

Tomatoes

You may not immediately think of tomatoes when you think of what to eat to keep your heart healthy. Tomatoes are actually loaded with a natural plant pigment known as lycopene that has potent antioxidant properties.11

Antioxidants are needed by the body to help neutralize the harmful free radicals, preventing inflammation, and reducing oxidative damage, all of which can contribute to heart disease.

Studies have found that people with low blood levels of lycopene are at a higher risk of having a stroke and heart attack.12,13

A study carried out in 50 overweight women participants found that consuming two raw tomatoes four times a week helped boost the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.14

Having higher levels of HDL cholesterol is helpful in removing excess plaque and cholesterol from your arteries. This helps your heart remain healthy and also protects against stroke and heart disease.15

Another review of 25 studies found that high consumption of foods that are rich in lycopene is linked with a decreased risk of stroke and heart disease.16

Whole Grains

Whole grains have a lot of benefits for your overall health. Common types of whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat, rye, barley, oats, quinoa, and buckwheat. As compared to refined grains, whole grains are rich in fiber. Fiber helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease.17,18

There are many studies that have found that consuming more whole grains in your diet can be good for your heart. An analysis of 45 studies found that consuming three more servings of whole grains daily was associated with a 22 percent lesser risk of heart disease.19

Another study also found that if you have at least three servings of whole grains, it can dramatically reduce your systolic blood pressure by 6 mmHg, which is sufficient to decrease your risk of stroke by nearly 25 percent.20

Avocados

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial for your heart. Monounsaturated fats have been associated with lower levels of cholesterol and a reduced risk of heart disease.

A 2015 study looked at the impact of three types of cholesterol-reducing diets in 45 obese and overweight people, out of which one of the test groups was consuming one avocado every day. The study found that the participants of the avocado group experienced significant reductions in LDL cholesterol, as well as a reduction in the levels of small, dense LDL cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is believed to significantly increase the risk of heart disease.21

A 2013 study carried out on 17,567 people found that those who consumed avocados regularly were almost half as likely to develop metabolic syndrome.22

Since avocados are rich in potassium, which is necessary for your heart health, eating them regularly can help you lower blood pressure and also lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. One avocado provides your body with 975 milligrams of potassium, which is about 28 percent of what you need in one day. Consuming 4.7 grams of potassium a day can lower your blood pressure by 8.4/4.1 mmHg, which in turn reduces the risk of stroke by 15 percent.23,24

Other Superfoods That Are Good For Your Heart

Apart from the superfoods mentioned above, there are many other superfoods that are great for your heart. These include:

Fatty Fish And Fish Oil – This includes fish like mackerel, salmon, tuna, and sardines, which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their potent heart benefits.

Walnuts – Walnuts are rich in fiber and micronutrients like copper, magnesium, and manganese. Having walnuts regularly can help protect you against heart disease.

Beans – Beans are rich in resistant starch, which helps improve your heart health by lowering the blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is a powerhouse of antioxidants like flavonoids, which boost your heart health. It also lowers the risk of heart disease.

Almonds – Almonds are nutrient-dense and contain a host of vitamins and minerals that are important for your heart health.

Garlic – Garlic has powerful medicinal properties and helps improve heart health owing to the presence of a compound known as allicin. Allicin has a wide variety of therapeutic effects, including for the heart.

Olive Oil – The heart-healthy benefits of olive oil are well known and scientifically proven. This oil is rich in antioxidants that help relieve inflammation and also lowers the risk of several chronic diseases.

Conclusion

As new evidence emerges every year, the link between heart disease and your diet is growing stronger. What you eat can have a great influence on your heart health – from your blood pressure levels to cholesterol levels, inflammation, and even triglycerides. So including these heart-healthy superfoods as part of your daily diet can help keep your heart in good health and also cut down the risk of heart disease.

References:

  1. Wolfe, D., 2009. Superfoods: the food and medicine of the future. North Atlantic Books.
  2. Maresz, K., 2015. Proper calcium use: vitamin K2 as a promoter of bone and cardiovascular health. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 14(1), p.34.
  3. Vermeer, C.V., 2012. Vitamin K: the effect on health beyond coagulation–an overview. Food & nutrition research, 56(1), p.5329.
  4. Kapil, V., Khambata, R.S., Robertson, A., Caulfield, M.J. and Ahluwalia, A., 2015. Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension, 65(2), pp.320-327.
  5. Bendinelli, B., Masala, G., Saieva, C., Salvini, S., Calonico, C., Sacerdote, C., Agnoli, C., Grioni, S., Frasca, G., Mattiello, A. and Chiodini, P., 2011. Fruit, vegetables, and olive oil and risk of coronary heart disease in Italian women: the EPICOR Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(2), pp.275-283.
  6. Pollock, R.L., 2016. The effect of green leafy and cruciferous vegetable intake on the incidence of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis. JRSM cardiovascular disease, 5, p.2048004016661435.
  7. Zafra‐Stone, S., Yasmin, T., Bagchi, M., Chatterjee, A., Vinson, J.A. and Bagchi, D., 2007. Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Molecular nutrition & food research, 51(6), pp.675-683.
  8. Basu, A., Fu, D.X., Wilkinson, M., Simmons, B., Wu, M., Betts, N.M., Du, M. and Lyons, T.J., 2010. Strawberries decrease atherosclerotic markers in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Nutrition research, 30(7), pp.462-469.
  9. Stull, A.J., Cash, K.C., Champagne, C.M., Gupta, A.K., Boston, R., Beyl, R.A., Johnson, W.D. and Cefalu, W.T., 2015. Blueberries improve endothelial function, but not blood pressure, in adults with metabolic syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients, 7(6), pp.4107-4123.
  10. Huang, H., Chen, G., Liao, D., Zhu, Y. and Xue, X., 2016. Effects of berries consumption on cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis with trial sequential analysis of randomized controlled trials. Scientific reports, 6(1), pp.1-11.
  11. Story, E.N., Kopec, R.E., Schwartz, S.J. and Harris, G.K., 2010. An update on the health effects of tomato lycopene. Annual review of food science and technology, 1, pp.189-210.
  12. Karppi, J., Laukkanen, J.A., Mäkikallio, T.H. and Kurl, S., 2012. Low serum lycopene and β-carotene increase risk of acute myocardial infarction in men. The European Journal of Public Health, 22(6), pp.835-840.
  13. Karppi, J., Laukkanen, J.A., Sivenius, J., Ronkainen, K. and Kurl, S., 2012. Serum lycopene decreases the risk of stroke in men: a population-based follow-up study. Neurology, 79(15), pp.1540-1547.
  14. Cuevas-Ramos, D., Almeda-Valdés, P., Chávez-Manzanera, E., Meza-Arana, C.E., Brito-Córdova, G., Mehta, R., Pérez-Méndez, O. and Gómez-Pérez, F.J., 2013. Effect of tomato consumption on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level: a randomized, single-blinded, controlled clinical trial. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity: targets and therapy, 6, p.263.
  15. Ali, K.M., Wonnerth, A., Huber, K. and Wojta, J., 2012. Cardiovascular disease risk reduction by raising HDL cholesterol–current therapies and future opportunities. British journal of pharmacology, 167(6), pp.1177-1194.
  16. Cheng, H.M., Koutsidis, G., Lodge, J.K., Ashor, A.W., Siervo, M. and Lara, J., 2019. Lycopene and tomato and risk of cardiovascular diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological evidence. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 59(1), pp.141-158.
  17. Bazzano, L.A., 2008. Effects of soluble dietary fiber on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and coronary heart disease risk. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 10(6), pp.473-477.
  18. Pietinen, P., Rimm, E.B., Korhonen, P., Hartman, A.M., Willett, W.C., Albanes, D. and Virtamo, J., 1996. Intake of dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease in a cohort of Finnish men: the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Circulation, 94(11), pp.2720-2727.
  19. Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E., Fadnes, L.T., Boffetta, P., Greenwood, D.C., Tonstad, S., Vatten, L.J., Riboli, E. and Norat, T., 2016. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. bmj, 353.
  20. Tighe, P., Duthie, G., Vaughan, N., Brittenden, J., Simpson, W.G., Duthie, S., Mutch, W., Wahle, K., Horgan, G. and Thies, F., 2010. Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 92(4), pp.733-740.
  21. Wang, L., Bordi, P.L., Fleming, J.A., Hill, A.M. and Kris‐Etherton, P.M., 2015. Effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocados on lipoprotein particle number, size and subclasses in overweight and obese adults: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Heart Association, 4(1), p.e001355.
  22. Fulgoni, V.L., Dreher, M. and Davenport, A.J., 2013. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition journal, 12(1), pp.1-6.
  23. Nutritiondata.self.com. 2021. Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties Nutrition Facts & Calories. [online] Available at: <https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1843/2> [Accessed 19 March 2021].
  24. Houston, M.C., 2011. The importance of potassium in managing hypertension. Current hypertension reports, 13(4), pp.309-317.

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