Healthy nutrition is the cornerstone in any healthy lifestyle. What you eat can help keep your heart healthy and improve your biometrics. Heart healthy foods help keep your heart healthy and support your pursuit of fitness.
Four Types of Heart Healthy Superfoods
Healthy Fats Like Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
The American Heart Association recommends eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice weekly. Some benefits associated with omega-3 consumption include lower blood pressure, decreased triglycerides, reduced inflammation, decreased risk of irregular heartbeat, and reduced blood clotting. These fatty acids may decrease risk of heart failure and stroke.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (Mufas) also help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that is sometimes described as the "bad" cholesterol.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids Include:
- Flax seeds
- Chia Seeds
Foods Rich In MUFAS Include:
- Olive oil
Soluble fiber helps improve or maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels by reducing both total and LDL cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, soluble fiber reduces the cholesterol you absorb into your bloodstream. They recommend at least Five to ten grams of soluble fiber daily.
Foods Rich in Soluble Fiber Include:
- Kidney beans
Flavonoids and Other Antioxidants
Flavonoids (flavonoids) are found in some plants including fruits and vegetables. They act as an antioxidant and help fight aging and damaging free radicals. Some flavonoids also help with repairing the heart and blood vessels. In addition, many foods rich in flavonoids also contain fiber and other nutrients. There is a reason your mom and your doctor both urge you to eat your veggies. The good news is some "fun" foods like dark chocolate happen to contain beneficial flavonoids.
According to an article in Harvard Health:
"Flavonoids in cocoa have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight cell damage. They’ve also been shown to help thinking skills." (Source Sweet dreams: eating chocolate prevents heart disease)
Foods rich in flavonoids include:
- Dark chocolate (containing at least 60-70% cocoa and minimal sugar)
- Citrus fruits (be aware that grapefruits interfere with statins which are cholesterol-lowering drugs)
- Leafy greens like kale and spinach
Beans or legumes are often recognized as heart healthy foods. They contain lean protein and insoluble fiber. Beans are also a low-glycemic index so they can help people with diabetes and prediabetes regulate blood sugar. One "Archives of Internal Medicine" published study indicated that eating a cup a day of beans or other legumes reduces risk of heart disease.
Heart Healthy Legumes include:
Putting It All Together
Chances are you already eat some of these heart healthy foods. With a little awareness and planning, you can take your diet and nutrition to the next level.
For example, a heart healthy super breakfast may include a cup of oatmeal topped with blueberries, chia seeds, and walnuts. A heart healthy lunch may include an avocado, walnut and salmon salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
With a little imagination, you can enjoy heart healthy superfoods every day! Be sure to track your heart rate variability (HRV) to see how these changes impact your biometrics and your health.
Sources and Resources:
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, American Heart Association
Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers, Mayo Clinic
Sweet dreams: eating chocolate prevents heart disease, Harvard Health
Heart Healthy Foods, Shopping List, HealthFinder.gov