A Heart-Healthy Diet Can Help Prevent Heart Disease
January 05 2023
Foods that Can Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Your heart is continuously pumping blood to provide your entire body with oxygen. Besides your brain, it is one of the most important organs in your body as it plays a vital role in supporting so many other systems.
Because your heart is constantly working, it is important to keep it healthy and in top condition in order to avoid heart disease or to slow the progression of heart disease.
One of the many ways you can support your entire cardiovascular system, including your heart, is to eat a nutritious and heart-healthy diet. Remember, it’s not just about what you do eat, but also what you don’t eat!
In fact, research suggests that diet may be one of the most preventative factors when it comes to heart disease.
Let’s take a look at some specific diets as well as foods that can help you lower your risk for heart disease.
This particular diet is based on those of people living in countries along the Mediterranean coast, including Italy, southern France, Greece, and Spain. It is also perhaps the most studied diet when it comes to heart health. Research has shown that people who follow a Mediterranean style diet have much lower rates of heart disease than other dietary patterns. It has also shown to improve the survival rate in those with existing heart disease.
This particular diet is high in plant-based foods such as beans, veggies, fruits, and whole grains. But it also contains plenty of seafood and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts. This diet tends to be low in ultra-processed foods, red and processed meats, as well as added sugar.
Remember that choosing an eating pattern rooted in the principles of the Mediterranean diet doesn’t mean you have to give up your cultural foods. In fact, it is very important that your diet and eating habits incorporate foods that are easily accessible locally and are meaningful to you culturally or personally. The goal here is to incorporate more of the above foods into your diet, whether that is replacing your regular cooking oil with olive oil or adding more steamed veggie sides to your meals.
Vegetarian and vegan diets have also been shown to help improve heart health and decrease the risk of heart disease. However, it is important to note that not all plant-based diets offer the same heart-healthy benefits. Those high in refined grains or processed snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages are still associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease. Remember, plant-based diets that are high in veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds and are low in ultra-processed foods or red meats will give you the most heart-healthy benefits.
Specific Foods that are Heart Healthy
Let’s now break it down by specific types of foods and their heart-healthy benefits.
Fruits: All fruits are beneficial to our health, but those that have the most heart-health benefits include citrus fruits, apples, pears, and berries. Fruits are also high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that can support our body and heart with the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Veggies: Like fruits, all veggies have benefits for our health. However, some studies suggest that onions, garlic, cruciferous veggies (cabbage family), leafy green veggies, and carrots may have greater heart-health benefits compared to other veggies.
Seafood: Seafood is high in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which are a huge benefit to our cardiovascular system. If you aren’t a huge fan of seafood, talk to your doctor about an omega-3 supplement that you can take instead.
Legumes: Beans and lentils are loaded with fiber and nutrients like magnesium and potassium, which are all essential to cardiovascular health.
Whole Grains: Replace refined grains with more whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and quinoa. These foods are high in fiber and other heart-healthy nutrients.
Healthy Fats: Sources of healthy fats include olive oil, olives, nuts and seeds, avocado, and fatty fish, such as salmon.
Spices: Some studies have shown that using certain spices regularly may benefit heart health. These spices include turmeric, garlic, saffron, and ginger, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce heart disease risk factors.
It’s always important to speak with your doctor before making a change to your diet. Other health conditions and allergies may preclude some people from eating particular heart-healthy foods. It is also important to speak with your doctor about heart-health supplements that you might be able to take alongside a heart-healthy diet.
For additional information on heart-healthy foods, be sure to visit the American Heart Association site for tips and recipes!