If you’re feeling sick and tired a lot of the time it could be connected to your heart. After all the heart is the organ that works the hardest for us pumping blood throughout the body. An unhealthy heart having to work even harder than normal uses up a lot of our energy. When it comes to heart health, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that heart disease is still considered the leading cause of deaths in this country. The good news is that with all the research done on heart health, experts have identified ways to contribute to a healthy heart which means a reduced chance of heart attack or stroke for you. One of those ways is to eat a diet full of heart healthy foods.
The Effect of Heart Healthy Foods
According to Arthur Agatston, MD, a cardiologist and the author of The South Beach Wake-Up Call, countries that don’t eat processed foods like we do in this country don’t have heart disease in the amounts that we do. A research study in Circulation reported a 35% reduction in the risk of heart attack or stroke death for people eating diets of heart healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish. Even those that already had heart disease showed a 28% risk reduction in having a second heart attack or stroke by eating foods for a healthy heart. Walter Willett, MD, Harvard School of Public Health chair of nutrition, maintains that eating heart healthy foods can do more for heart health than medications for heart disease as the medications only reduce the risk by 25 to 30 percent and a healthy heart diet can reduce the risk by 70%. One paper in the British Medical Journal advised that eating a diet with fish, garlic, almonds, wine, dark chocolate, fruits and vegetables would be a much preferable alternative to heart medications.
Heart Healthy Foods to Include
Of course, changing your diet to include heart healthy foods and energize your body doesn’t mean you can continue to eat processed, artery clogging fatty foods and just add some healthier foods on top of that. It means a change in diet with what and how you eat. Get rid of processed, junk and fast foods as well as refined sugar and especially refined carb foods to really stay with a healthy heart diet. Then add a variety of the following into your diet.
Healthy Fats – Eating fatty cold-water fish like wild caught salmon, sardines, mackerel and halibut that have omega-3 fatty acids, which is a type of polyunsaturated fat, can help reduce plaque in arteries, lower trigycerides, raise HDL cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of irregular heart beat and reduce inflammation that leads to clots that can cause heart attacks. The American Heart Association suggests eating fish at least two times a week. You can get omega-3 also from other food sources such as AFA bluegreen algae, flaxseed, chia seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and olive oil. Chia seeds are also high in fiber which can help lower cholesterol. In the healthy fats category, you also find monounsaturated fats that help in reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and reducing the risk of heart disease. Foods in this category include avocados, peanut butter, nuts, olives and oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and canola oil. Avocados are also high in potassium and antioxidants making them an even more powerful heart healthy food.
Fiber – Besides chia seeds, oatmeal and other whole grain foods are high in fiber. Registered dietician and co-director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Lauren Graf explains that foods with soluble fiber like oatmeal work in the intestines to absorb cholesterol so that it doesn’t get into the bloodstream. Potatoes are not only a good source for fiber, but are also loaded with potassium that can help keep blood pressure levels down. Fried potatoes just like other fried foods are not recommended for a healthy heart diet, but there are lots of other ways to fix potatoes.
Antioxidants – Berries like blueberries and strawberries are a good source of antioxidants which studies have shown can reduce heart attack risk. Flavonoids, a type of antioxidant in berries, work to lower blood pressure and open up blood vessels. Dark chocolate that contains a minimum of 60% cocoa has polyphenols which are a type of flavonoid found to reduce blood clots, inflammation, have a positive effect on the flexibility of blood vessels, and help stabilize blood pressure. Harvard cardiologist Norman Hollenberg, MD, discovered the drinking of lots of cocoa as being the secret to a lack of hypertension in the Kuna Indians by Panama. One study showed women eating lots of oranges and grapefruits which are also high in flavonoids had a 19% less chance of having stroke from a blood clot. If you are on statin medication, then grapefruit can interfere with the effectiveness of those type drugs and should be avoided. Oranges also have potassium and pectin which is a soluble fiber. The citrus pectin has also been reported to block a protein that can result in heart tissue scarring and lead to congestive heart failure. Lycopene is another antioxidant known as a carotenoid that can help enlarge blood vessels, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce heart attack risks. It is found in abundance in tomatoes which incidentally are also high in potassium. Green tea contains catechins, another type of antioxidant. Many studies on benefits of green tea show a reduction in the risk of heart disease and stroke by at least 20% by regularly drinking it.
Low-fat Protein – Plant-based proteins are a way to get the proteins your body needs without the unhealthy fats. Legumes like beans, lentils and peas all fall into this category. One study reported a 22% reduction in the risk of heart disease for people eating legumes a minimum of four times weekly. Another study done over a 25 year period reported people eating legumes showed an 82% reduced rate of heart disease related deaths. Legumes also are high in fiber, folate, magnesium and potassium.
Whole Food Supplement Option
I know it is sometimes hard with the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and in our society to never drive through a fast food place or get a fast and easy pre-packaged processed food meal. You may have to start out slowly making changes to a more healthy heart diet and work your way up according to what your current diet looks like. If you pretty much live on fast food and eating on the go, then start by picking one day of the week that you will commit to eating only fresh veggies, fruits, fish and some of the other heart healthy foods listed. Then go from there and build up to more and more days, meals and snacks that will support your heart health and energize you. Another option for getting in some of the good nutrition we’ve talked about here while making diet changes is a whole foods supplement with AFA bluegreen algae and antioxidants. This supplement gives you 100 mg. of ubiquinol, the active and bioavailable form of Coenzyme Q10 delivered in a blend of organic flaxseed oil, olive biophenols (Hidrox®), organic reishi and oyster mushrooms as well as the powerhouse nutritional value of AFA bluegreen algae. CoQ10 is a vital antioxidant for your cells to function properly and produce the energy they need. Besides physical energy we need to keep going, every biological process our body performs takes energy and this coenzyme is required for 95% of our cellular energy production. Among the ingredients you see in this antioxidant supplement, you’ll find oyster mushrooms that are rich in beta glucans, B vitamins, protein, minerals, polysaccharides and ergothioeine which is a powerful antioxidant. Studies on these mushrooms have shown they have properties that are positively beneficial to the cardiovascular system and circulatory system. Reishi mushrooms also have high levels of beta glucans and polysaccharides as well as 130 identified triterpenoid compounds making it rich in proteins, enzymes, minerals, and complex polysaccharides. Research is also finding these mushrooms to have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, cholesterol, circulation, cellular damage, and inflammation.
Your heart and cardiovascular system are too important to your health and your life to neglect. You can reduce the risks of heart disease and death from heart attack and stroke by being proactive now about changing your diet. Look over the list of heart healthy foods and start adding these into your diet and taking out the processed, refined, bad fat foods you eat now. You’ll live a longer, healthier life, feel better and be better energized to do all the things you want to do.
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