9 Superfoods for a Super Heart
The key to a healthy heart is a balanced diet, filled with fruits, vegetables, wholesome grains and energy-boosting proteins.
However, not all healthy foods are created equal! There are a few foods that may take extra special care of your heart’s health and protect it from disease. We’ve compiled a list of 9 of these amazing superfoods and the great benefits each one has for your heart.
Whether they’re enjoyed as a bowl of warm, filling porridge or baked into tasty flapjacks, there’s no denying oats are an incredible food for the heart. This cereal is rich in fibre meaning it has a number of great benefits. In particular, it contains a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which acts like a sponge that absorbs and eliminates cholesterol-rich bile acid that lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol.
This increasingly popular fruit has numerous benefits for the heart. Most famously, avocados are filled with ‘good fats’, also known as mono and polyunsaturated fats. When eaten in place of saturated or trans fats, these can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
It’s not just the healthy fats in avocados that make them such an impressive superfood; they’re also rich in potassium. This mineral has been proven to help normalise blood pressure by blunting the effect of salt – a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Of course, with any fat, avocados should be eaten in moderation; a quarter of an avocado is a single, recommended serving.
Just like avocados and oats, nuts are another source of ‘good fats’ and fibre that help lower cholesterol. However, they also contain many other vitamins and minerals that are good for the heart.
Nuts contain omega-3 which prevents the dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks, and vitamin E which may stop the development of plaque in your arteries. This plaque can lead to chest pain, coronary heart disease or a heart attack.
Perhaps the most impressive benefit of nuts is that they’re a source of I-arginine. This amino acid can help make your artery walls more flexible and improve their health, leaving you less prone to blood clots that block blood flow. Although all nuts offer some of these health benefits, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pistachios are best. A small handful of unsalted nuts is the recommended amount you should eat.
High in lycopene, tomatoes have been proven to decrease plaque on coronary arteries, helping to avoid heart attacks and significantly lowering the risk of stroke. Tomatoes are also beneficial for patients with heart failure as increased lycopene intake has been linked to improved survival rates.
5. Olive oil
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is well-known for being good for the heart. Poured over salads or used sparingly in cooking, it has anti-inflammatory properties and contains antioxidants and various other heart-healthy nutrients. These nutrients can affect the heart by lowering rates of inflammation and heart disease. A teaspoon a day is enough to get all of these amazing benefits.
Not just a tasty treat, berries have also been shown to benefit the heart as they’ve got high levels of antioxidants. In particular, they have an antioxidant known as polyphenols which have been linked to increasing good cholesterol, lowering bad cholesterol and reducing blood pressure.
With a cup a day being the recommended portion, berries are a fun and easy food to incorporate into your routine as you can eat them as a midday snack or sprinkle them on top of porridge for an extra heart healthy boost!
Legumes are versatile, delicious and great for your heart too. They have an impressive list of nourishing benefits as they’re rich in plant protein, fibre, B-vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Most notably, they contain phytochemicals that are great for protecting against numerous diseases and disorders, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and inflammation.
A quarter of a cup is the recommended serving, and there are a number of nutrient-dense legumes to choose from, the best being chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and soybeans.
8. Whole grains
Whole grain foods not only keep you fuller for longer, they are also great for preventing heart disease. Often cast aside in favour of refined grains like white rice and bread, whole grains use the entire grain which means they aren’t stripped of fibre. As with oats, this fibre is shown to improve blood cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke as well as helping to control weight.
Whole wheat can be easily incorporated into your life by simply switching from regular pasta, white rice and crispy white cereals to the whole grain option.
9. Green tea
Green tea truly is a superfood (or rather drink!) when it comes to your heart. Firstly, it’s rich in powerful antioxidants called flavonoids that protect the heart by improving the health of arteries. Secondly, it improves the function of endothelial cells, which if dysfunctional, play a key role in the development of clogged arteries.
Green tea drinkers have up to a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Those who drink more than five cups a day have a 26% lower risk of death from heart attack or stroke than people who drink less than one cup.
Of course, a healthy diet filled with these delicious foods is only part of keeping your heart healthy. By getting regular exercise, cutting out bad habits like smoking and drinking and embracing an active life with friends, you should be on your way to having a healthier heart.