It’s never too early or too late to start looking after your heart. One easy way to boost your heart health is by incorporating more heart-healthy foods into your diet. These foods can help keep your cardiovascular system running smoothly and potentially help you prevent heart disease. Learn more about some of the top heart-healthy foods.
Healthy Food For Your Heart
Let's dive into each of these foods to discover how they help your heart.
Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients. Omega-3s are unsaturated fats that can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation can ultimately damage the cardiovascular system and can increase your chance of a heart attack or stroke. Sustained levels of inflammation may irritate blood vessels, trigger blood clots, and loosen plaque in the arteries. Omega 3s help fight inflammation by lowering blood pressure, reducing blood clotting, and helping to maintain regular heartbeats.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil has the highest percentage of monosaturated fatty acids of any edible plant oil. Monosaturated fat helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Olive oil has also demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Extra-virgin olive oil does differ from regular olive oil and may boast more benefits. Extra-virgin olive oil is not processed with heat or chemical solvents like regular olive oil. Consuming more than a half tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil each day can help you boost your heart health and lower risk for heart disease.
Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are great for your heart! Spinach is rich in vitamins and nutrients, like calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, and vitamin C. It’s also a great source of nitrates, which can help widen blood vessels. As a result, nitrates, which turn into nitric oxide when digested, can help lower blood pressure and improve overall blood flow in the body. High blood pressure is one of the biggest contributors to heart disease. Plus, spinach can also help boost your eye and brain health!
Blueberries are another great food to include in your diet to help protect your heart. They contain vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants, and soluble fiber. All of which can help boost heart health. Vitamin C can help the body produce more nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure. Vitamin K can help reduce the stiffness of arteries. Antioxidants can help lower blood pressure as well as reduce damage from free radicals in the body. Finally, soluble fiber can help manage your cholesterol, which is a known risk factor for heart disease.
You might not be as familiar with flaxseed, but this grain is a great source of soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. As we previously mentioned, soluble fiber can manage cholesterol levels, while omega-3s fight inflammation. Flaxseed also contains alpha-linolenic acid, which is thought to also play a role in preventing heart disease. To incorporate this grain into your diet, try mixing ground flaxseed with things you already eat. For example, you can mix flaxseed in with oatmeal and yogurt. You can add it to mayonnaise for a sandwich. And you can even bake ground flaxseed into your cookies, breads, and other baked goods.
Nuts are another food high in omega-3s, unsaturated fats, and fiber, making them great for your heart. Some nuts also naturally contain plant sterols, which can help lower cholesterol. In general, nuts are also a source of L-arginine, which may help lower blood pressure and improve overall blood vessel health. Make sure to watch your portions, though, because some nuts are high in calories. Additionally, when reaching for a handful of nuts, choose the unsalted ones since salt is linked to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
You don’t have to eat a head of garlic to reap its health benefits. But cooking with garlic regularly or taking garlic supplements can help regulate your cholesterol levels and lower your blood pressure. Garlic can also help prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque can cause an artery to become narrowed or even blocked. It can also break free from the arteries and form a clot. Garlic has also shown to help boost the immune system and protect your cells.
Eating two servings of this fruit (yes — fruit!) per week is linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This could be due to the oleic acid, fiber, and vitamins that avocados contain. Oleic acid is a type of monosaturated fat. Avocados have about the same amount of this fat as a tablespoon of olive oil. As we mentioned, monosaturated oils can help manage cholesterol. One serving of avocado provides up to 20% of your daily recommended amount of fiber. Plus, avocados have folate, potassium, and magnesium, which have also been linked to better heart health.
While these foods may help protect your heart, if you have heart problems or other chronic conditions, it’s best to discuss any changes in diet with your doctor. And if you need help managing your diet, our professional caregivers are here to help. We can plan and prepare nutritious, heart-healthy meals for seniors and their families. Reach out to your local Caring team today to learn more.