Keeping your heart healthy is vital. After all, the 10 ounce organ, as powerful as it seems, is very fragile and needs all your love and care as well as some essential nutrients that will maintain its vitality, repair damaged cells and reduce risk of heart disease.
The obvious changes anyone should make when it comes to heart health is following a wholesome diet that provides good quality protein, essential fats, wholegrains and plenty of fresh bright coloured fruits and vegetables, incorporating some exercise, reducing the amount of saturated fat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, salt, alcohol and caffeine, and avoiding smoking.
It is also worth incorporating specific foods in your diet on a daily basis to boost levels of phytonutrients, prevent a build up of plaque in your arteries and keep your heart strong.
1. Wild salmon is one of the best sources of essential fatty acids Omega 3 that may help reduce high blood pressure, control the amount of triglycerides and prevent inflammation. Have 2-4 portions weekly. Choose wild or organic fish.
2. Flaxseed and chia seeds contain a perfect ratio of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Both seeds are also a great source of fibre known for its ability to keep your arteries free from plaque and control cholesterol. Unlike flaxseed that contain phytoestrogens and may need to be avoided due to specific health reasons (check with your doctor and nutritional therapist first), chia seeds would suit practically everyone. Another benefit of chia is the convenience factor – flax needs to be ground (ideally just before you eat it) in order to give you all the goodness while chia is fine as it is.
3. Almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts act as anti-inflammatory, contain essential fatty acids and fibre as well as magnesium that is essential for proper contractions, preventing clot forming and controlling blood pressure. Walnuts also contain folate that may lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that has been associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
4. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots provide antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene as well as plenty of fibre that may reduce the risk of heart disease and control cholesterol.
5. Dark leafy green vegetables including kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and chard will also give you beta-carotene and fibre as well as potassium, magnesium, folate, lutein and zeaxanthin that may help reduce blood pressure.
6. Apples, papaya and oranges are high in pectin, a type of soluble fibre that keeps the arteries plaque-free and can lower bad LDL cholesterol. Oranges and papayas are also high in beta-carotene and vitamin C that may help people with heart failure by calming down inflammation in the body.
7. Blueberries are another super food and a wonderful source of beta-carotene and lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium and fibre as well as ellagic acid (also found in walnuts, pomegranates, strawberries and raspberries) that may help control levels of homocysteine and protect heart tissue from damage.
8. Oats and buckwheat. Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre, and antioxidant compounds called avenanthramides that may lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease. Buckwheat may help you control cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood pressure due to high levels of rutin. It also contains plenty of magnesium important for healthy blood vessels.
9. Dark chocolate, the cocoa part, contains catechins, antioxidant polyphenols that may lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart disease. Bear in mind that it’s best to stick with dark organic chocolate and limit your daily intake to 20g of less.
10. Green tea also contains catechins and can help lower blood pressure, maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce risk of blood clots, and keep the heart muscle strong.
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