Chia Seeds Are Sprouting With Nutrients. Chia seeds contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids of any plant-based food. That's good news for your heart, because omega-3 fatty acids help people with high cholesterol by lowering triglycerides in the blood, and also lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). This superfood is also loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants, protein, and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, and soluble fiber.
Stephen Kopecky, MD, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says that soluble fiber in mSoderation has a lot of benefits and may help lower cholesterol. “Too much of a good thing can make you constipated if you’re not drinking enough water,” he cautions.
Although chia seeds have been shown to impact cardiovascular risk by lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol, it’s important to note that most of the reseach conduted with chis with chis seeds thus far has been on animals.
Green Tea Packs an Antioxidant Punch. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called polyphenols and catechins, which can prevent cell damage and protect you from heart disease. A study presented at an AHA conference in early 2016 found that researchers have found tea drinkers have fewer major heart events like heart attack and stroke, compared with people who don't drink tea. And a review of studies published in August 2007 in the Journal of American college of Nutrition found that the most abundant catechin in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), improves heart health and also metabolism.
“Green tea, more than any other tea, is good for the heartt,” says Politi. To get the most benefit from this superfood, it's best to drink tea from tea leaves that do not have any other ingredients added to them.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read it Before You Eat It and the Nutrition Intuition column on Everyday Health, cautions that if your doctor has told you to limit caffeine due to a heart condition, you should look for caffeine-free green tea to reduce your intake of the stimulant.
Quinoa Is a Nutrition Powerhouse. The Incas first discovered quinoa roughly 4,000 years ago in what is now South America. Quinoa is a good superfood to try because it's a gluten-free whole grain, is rich in minerals, and has high protein value, with 8 grams (g) per cup cooked. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids found in meat, including lysine, an amino acid essential for tissue growth and repair. Because whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, the AHA recommends getting three servings each day. Try adding quinoa to muffins, pancakes, salads, soups, and risotto to increase the whole grains in your diet.
Nuts Cut Risk of Heart Disease. The healthy fats found in nuts put them high on the list of foods that are good for your heart.
Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans are among the superfoods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to potentially prevent dangerous heart rhythms and reduce the risk of developing blood clots. According to the Mayo Clinic Clinic, adding nuts to your diet can lower your blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol — to help prevent heart disease.
To get the best of their health benefits, Politi cautions not to go nuts with nuts. “By eating a lot of nuts you can gain weight in the abdomen area, increasing your risk of obesity and heart disease,” she says. Try eating 1 ounce of nuts per day in place of a sugary snack.
Dark Chocolate May Lower Heart Attack and Stroke Risk. Don’t feel bad about reaching for that occasional piece of dark chocolate — a plethora of studies show that it can benefit your heart. According to a review published in december 2015 in the journal Current Treatment Options for Cardibascular Medicine, the flavonoids in dark chocolate could help reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation. And a srudy published in may 2012 in the British Medical Journal found that consuming dark chocolate (containing at least 60 to 70 percent cocoa) could reduce heart attacks and strokes for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Taub-Dix says that with dark chocolate, you still need to watch portion size. “In terms of helping the heart you don’t want to hurt the waistline,” she says. “But having a square or two of dark chocolate is better than a bowl of ice cream.”
Fatty Fish Give a Dose of Omega-3s. Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, sardines, anchovies, and herring, are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help control high blood pressure, reduce irregular heartbeats like atrial fibrillation, and decrease your risk of stroke and heart failure. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating just one to two servings of fish per week can lower your risk of dying from heart disease. But when selecting fish, avoid those known to be high in mercury, a cardiotoxin found in shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
Some people who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet take fish oil supplements. Politi says that more research is needed to determine whether fish oil, as a supplement, can help reduce heart disease. “Given the current scientific evidence, it’s better to get omega-3s from food,” she says, whether from plant sources or from fish.
Berries May Widen Arteries and Prevent Plaque Buildup. Blueberries, strawberries, goji, and acai berries are all superfoods thanks to their flavonoids, which can lower blood pressure and dilate blood vessels, helping with circulation. Strawberries and blueberries also contain high levels of a compound that can help widen the arteries and prevent plaque buildup. And citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit, contain a lot of vitamin C, which can lower your risk of heart disease. A study published in February 2012 in the Journal Stroke found that the flavonoids in oranges, grapefruits, and their juices reduce clotting and lower risk of ischemic stroke in women.
Dr. Kopecky says, “The sooner you eat the fruit after it’s picked, the more nutrients it will contain.”
Be aware that grapefruit can interfere with multiple medications, including cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-arrhythmic medication, and blood pressure drugs. In addition, grapefruit and goji berries in the diet can act as blood thinners, so people taking Coumadin (warfarin) or Plavix (clopidogrel) should check with their doctor to see if they need to limit or avoid these fruits.
This Superfood Isn’t All Starch. Potatoes have a bad reputation for being high in calories. But white, red, purple, and sweet spuds are rich in potassium, fiber, calcium, and B vitamins like B6 and folic acid (folate). These can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Cook potatoes with the skin on, since it contains the highest amount of nutrients. A studu published in December 2013 in the journal of Biomedical Science found that quercetin, a flavonoid in potato skin, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Potatoes get their bad rap because of the toppings we tend to load on them. Taub-Dix says, “It’s all about the company you keep.” She advises using a fat-free Greek yogurt as a topping for your potato instead of butter and sour cream, both of which are laden with the saturated fats that can increase high cholesterol levels.
Beans Can Help Lower Cholesterol. Taub-Dix says that heart-healthy beans, also called pulses, are one of the most underrated superfoods. Black, pinto, and kidney beans have soluble fibers that are good for the heart and could help lower LDL cholesterol. They’re inexpensive and easy to make and store. Taub-Dix believes that people get turned off because they think they have to cook raw beans to enjoy the heart benefits, but that isn’t so. “You can also eat canned beans,” Taub-Dix says. “If you wash the beans first, you get rid of up to 40 percent of the sodium.”
Cauliflower Is Rich in Vitamin C. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, and cabbage, are good sources of vitamin C. And an analysis published in August 2016 in JTSM Cardiovascular Disease found having cruciferous veggies in the diet can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. A review published in April 2008 in Circulation noted that folic acid, which is also found in cruciferous vegetables, can reduce cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
Kopecky cautions that leafy greens and foods high in vitamin K make your blood clot more quickly and could limit certain blood thinners from doing what they're supposed to do. That doesn’t mean you should cut cruciferous vegetables from your diet completely if you're taking Coumadin (warfarin). “It’s important not to avoid these foods, but keep a consistent intake,” Kopecky says, eating about the same amount in your diet each day.
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