Updated: Aug 17
It's no secret that cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is a top offender in terms of US mortality rates. But did you know that the main causes of the disease, like high blood pressure, stress, poor diet and obesity, and smoking, are largely preventable? While diet is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to prevention, it is a major factor. We often hear about foods to avoid, but just as important as those, are the foods to regularly consume. Read on for my top 5 nutrient-dense foods to consume to maintain a healthy heart.
1. Healthy Fats.
You guessed it, certain fats, like omega-3's, in your diet can ward off inflammation, protect your heart from damaging free radicals, and can lower cholesterol.
Take action: Add chia seeds to your oatmeal, ground flax to a smoothie, avocado to a sandwich, salmon to a weeknight dinner, or a handful of nuts to pair with a cup of fruit.
All fruit is a top contributor of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, but top the charts for the antioxidant levels. This compound is a key player in keeping hearts healthy and strong.
Take action: Berries on their own are a perfect treat, but atop cereal, oatmeal or salad, you'll have them working double time.
Probably your first or second guess, right? Vegetables are high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, all working wonders in your body to fight disease.
All vegetables are good vegetables when it comes to heart health, as they have certain nutrients that are especially effective in reducing disease risk.
Take action: When it comes to vegetables, more matters! Sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, leafy greens, carrots, radishes, artichokes. You name it, we love it.
4. Whole grains.
If you're following a ketogenic or paleo diet, you may be avoiding carbs, but I'm here to tell you complex carbohydrates like whole grains are not only healthy, but protective, as studies show. More specifically, a recent review found that consuming 3 servings of whole grains per day reduced the risk of heart disease by 22 percent!
Take action: Quinoa, brown rice, bulgar, whole wheat, farro, buckwheat, or oats will do the trick. Head over to a recent post on ancient grains, and how you incorporate them into your daily routine.
5. Beans & Legumes
Another fiber-rich food, beans of all types can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which are health concerns that negatively impact our heart function.
Take action: Aim for a 1/2 cup serving a few times per week. Any bean will do: black, kidney, cannelini, as well as legumes like lentils or black eyed peas!
Keep in mind, diet is not the only way to improve heart health and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease. Check out my post detailing other factors that contribute to your risk. Happy heart month!
Weigh in- what are you doing currently to decrease your risk of chronic diseases?