Heart disease is rightly described as one of the most deadly diseases of our times; it is among the top five reasons for fatalities due to infectious diseases! The most common forms of heart diseases result from narrowing of the arteries due to the build-up of plaque, which impairs blood flow raising the risk of a stroke or fatal heart attack. Poor dietary choices are a huge cause for this rise in heart disease risk across most of the world. Fortunately, this risk can be lowered considerably by making a few healthy food choices. Here are the top 10 super foods for heart health.
Avocados feature prominently on most lists of super health foods and it's no surprise that they are at the top of any heart healthy diet. The high calorie profile of avocados might make them appear to be a poor choice for anyone who has a heart or weight problem, but this couldn't be less true. According to a number of studies, regular consumption of avocados improves blood cholesterol readings, with an increase in HDL or 'good cholesterol' levels and a corresponding decrease in LDL or 'bad cholesterol' levels. In addition to the arterial cleansing effect avocados offer various health benefits.
Garlic has long been renowned for its medicinal value by herbalists and practitioners of folk medicine, but it has gained wider acceptance in recent times with several studies validating and supporting some of its therapeutic benefits. Several studies indicate that garlic doesn't just help improve cardiovascular health but it may also prevent hardening of the aorta. This makes garlic an essential in the diet of every heart patient. In addition to adding a few garlic cloves to your cooking, you can even chew on a handful of garlic cloves every day to reap these benefits.
Whether you like your greens or not, asparagus is a food that you should include in any heart healthy diet. This artery cleansing super food is extremely high in vitamin K, necessary for proper blood clotting and also rich in the Vitamin B. This is important as it helps regulate the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, which can be a significant risk factor for heart disease if in excess. The soluble fiber content in asparagus only adds to its health benefits for heart patients, as soluble fibre intake is known to cut the risk of heart disease.
Broccoli can help to prevent or lower the risk of arterial blockage forming. The vegetable is rich in sulforaphane, which is a molecule also found in other cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Sulforaphane has rich antioxidant properties and in addition to offering a neuroprotective effect, it facilitates and improves the body's utilization of protein, thereby restricting the build-up of plaque in the arteries. The high Vitamin K effect also protects against calcium deposits and damage to the arteries.
Whenever you're having any kind of bread or rice, always make it a point to opt for the whole grain variety. This also applies to breakfast cereal. Whole grains are extremely healthy because of their high content of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is not absorbed by the body, but it binds with cholesterol in your food, enabling its elimination from the body. Without soluble fibre, all of this cholesterol would be absorbed by the body. Cholesterol levels are also lowered as your body must turn to cholesterol supplies in the blood instead. This helps lower your risk of heart disease.
The Mediterranean diet is renowned as the healthiest diet and it's not surprising that the bulk of this diet comprises of leafy greens and fish. When we're talking about heart healthy fish, it is specifically the oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna that we're referring to. These fish are extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This helps to improve blood flow and it also helps protect against heart disease as it reduces the risk of inflammation and also cuts your risk of arterial plaque build-up.
This is probably one of the most effective of all artery-cleansing foods and these benefits are attributed to the high antioxidant levels in the fruit. The Vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidant content is what stimulates nitric oxide production. This helps to maintain healthy blood flow, preventing a build-up of arterial plaque. Consuming pomegranate is also thought to help improve blood pressure. You can either eat the fresh fruit or drink pomegranate juice if you prefer.
Turmeric is used in numerous folk remedies and is known to possess potent medicinal properties. It can be used as an anti-inflammatory agent and also helps to reduce the risk of any blockages in the arteries. Most of its health benefits in this context may be attributed to curcumin a compound present in turmeric. According to some studies, curcumin helps bring about a reduction in fatty deposits in the arteries. Furthermore, turmeric has a high vitamin B content, which helps regulate homocysteine levels and it also reduces cholesterol oxidation and bad cholesterol levels.
Olive oil is another prominent ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and not surprisingly, it's extremely good for the heart. This oil is extremely rich in antioxidants and healthy fats that help to lower your LDL or 'bad cholesterol' levels, while improving your HDL or 'good cholesterol' levels. This will help bring about a reduction in the build-up of plaque within the arteries. Try and opt for the extra-virgin variety to get the most nutritional and health value from the food. Olive oil isn't just used for cooking or frying, but is even healthier when used as a salad dressing.
Heart patients are often advised to consume a few almonds on a daily basis. There is good basis for this recommendation as despite the high calorie/fat content in most nuts, consuming some amount of nuts in moderation is extremely healthy, especially almonds. Several studies have shown that regular almond intake can have a cholesterol lowering effect with LDL levels being lowered by as much as 15%. Almonds are also rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and help to raise good cholesterol levels, while lowering bad cholesterol levels. The magnesium content of almonds helps regulate blood pressure and restricts plaque formation.
Other Notable Heart Healthy Foods
In addition, there are plenty of other foods that you should add to your diet for their heart health benefits. Red wine for one, should be consumed in moderation as flavonoids like catechins and reservatrol in wine help improve your cholesterol profile. Cranberries and watermelons also help improve your cholesterol profile and the amino acid L-citrulline in watermelon helps regulate blood pressure, lowers belly fat accumulation and modifies blood lipids. Cinnamon, green tea, ginger, bananas, psyllium husk, flaxseeds, lettuce and spinach are just some of the other foods you should include in your diet.