Diet is vitally important to all aspects of your health, but it’s smart to pay a little extra attention to your heart. As the body’s engine, you certainly can’t live without it. And a troubled heart has a ripple effect on the wellbeing of your entire body. Heart disease is also often linked to other complaints like high blood pressure, endocarditis, and coronary artery disease. You will likely experience chronic fatigue, nausea, and dizziness.
So to head off heart disease before it can take hold, evaluate your diet and see if you can make some better choices. The following foods, in combination with regular exercise, are especially good for your ticker.
1. Wild Salmon
You probably already know that fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Wild salmon is an especially great choice because it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in omega-3s has been found to improve the metabolic markers for heart disease. As a bonus, you’ll get a good deal of selenium, which is an antioxidant that protects the health of your entire cardiovascular system.
What you might not know is that you must choose wild salmon, not farmed. Unfortunately, up to about 70% of the fish you’ll find at the grocery store is farmed, but it’s not at all equal to the wild version. Farmed fish is fed an unnatural diet full of antibiotics and food dyes to make the flesh look healthy. The salmon are also so crowded in their environment that they tend to consume each other’s waste.
You’ve got to pack leafy greens into your daily diet, but if you aren’t a fan of the flavor, consider eating more cauliflower instead. It is quite mild in flavor yet delivers a serious punch of antioxidants and fiber.
That’s a combo you can count on to reduce inflammation, regulate digestion, and reduce cholesterol levels. Cauliflower is also highly versatile – it can be roasted, boiled and mashed, or eaten raw.
This may be the only red meat you’ll ever hear linked with a heart-healthy diet. Liver has a surprisingly diverse nutritional profile, containing protein (of course), vitamin C, vitamin B12, copper, iron, and zinc.
One serving of liver has about six grams of fat, but it’s the healthy kind that your heart loves. If you can stand the taste, liver is an extremely balanced source of protein.
Some people avoid potatoes because they assume the white color makes them a refined starch, which is prone to spiking blood sugar. But that’s not the case with spuds because they are full of fiber to moderate the rate of glucose absorption.
A diet high in potatoes has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Potatoes also contain a significant amount of potassium, which can lower your blood pressure. Go for purple potatoes to get the highest level of antioxidants, but don’t worry – red and white potatoes are pretty close in their antioxidant count.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, and apples contain a ton of antioxidant polyphenols that work to keep good and bad cholesterol levels in balance. The pectin in apples actually blocks the absorption of cholesterol, while the fiber helps push it out of the body.
An apple a day really is a smart choice, as it has been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol by an astonishing 40%. Beyond their heart-friendly attributes, apples have also been shown to reduce your cancer risk, protect your lungs, and help control appetite.
Walnuts are a healthy snack that has considerable benefits for your heart as well as your brain. For starters, they contain a good deal of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have the highest levels of antioxidants of any of the commonly eaten nut, so eating them can lower cholesterol, neutralize free radicals before they can cause cell damage, and reduce inflammation.
In terms of your heart, the folate, vitamin E, and fiber in walnuts all contribute to its overall health. Just remember to eat them unsalted.
7. Chia Seeds
Did you ever grow chia sprouts on one of those terra cotta Chia Pets? It’s a fun activity for kids, but chia is so much more than decoration. Chia seeds are full of nutrients, including calcium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin B2. They also have a good deal of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating a spoonful a day can not only reduce your bad cholesterol, it can clear out existing plaque buildup. One word of caution – don’t eat them dry as they develop a thick gel when exposed to water. You want that to happen before you eat them because it is otherwise quite easy to take too many in a bite, which can lead to a blocked esophagus.
8. Green Tea
Green tea is soothing and delicious, which can have a positive effect on your heart by itself. But tea also offers many other heart-healthy benefits, including lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.
It has antioxidants in the form of catechin and flavonoids, which studies show benefit the heart and reduce your risk of dangerous blood clots. All that goodness adds up to a lower lifetime risk of heart disease and is probably why green tea has been used by Chinese herbalists for hundreds of years.
Foods That are Good for Your Heart
9. Dark Chocolate
And now for dessert. It’s true that candy, cakes, and cookies are high in added sugar and saturated fat, two things your heart hates. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have any sweetness in your life. The flavonols in dark chocolate have been found to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow, which makes your heart’s job a lot easier.
Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids, which can offer protection against environmental toxins as well as repair cellular damage. The trick is to choose chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and does not contain palm oil.
You can’t go wrong with any of these foods as long as you enjoy a variety and eat everything in moderation. Do that and your diet will go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart and your entire body. Now you just have to decide what to do with the incredibly long and vibrant life you’re going to lead!