Heart healthy foods are – in a nutshell – foods that are high in antioxidants, B vitamins, phytonutrients, fiber and good fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Please do click on the links to learn about how these nutrients greatly benefit your heart. The key to having a healthy heart is to follow a "whole-foods diet" which simply means to eat food in its natural form – the less processed the better. That means plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. There is such a great variety of delicious foods that are so good for your heart – and of course the rest of your body benefits very as well.
It is quite interesting to know what the beneficial nutrients in heart healthy foods are:
- Phytosterols are plant sterols that reduce cholesterol and are contained in all seeds and nuts as well as wheat germ.
- Polyphenols are antioxidants that reduce the bad LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure and protect blood vessels. Flavonoids are well known polyphenols and are found in fruits and vegetables.
- Carotenoids are fat soluble chemicals that are found in the pigment of many colorful fruits and vegetables. They are important heart-protecting anioxidants. Beta carotene is a carotenoid and is found in orange, carrots, sweet potato and squash for example. Lutein is found in dark green vegetables such as broccoli as well as the yellow in egg yolk and bell peppers. Lycopene is found in red tomatoes, apricots, watermelon, papaya and grapefruit to name a few.
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseeds help protect against heart attacks – but this is only one of many health benefits associated with these essential fats.
- Vitamins and minerals – especially antioxidant vitamins C and E which protect cells from free radical damage. Minerals that help lower blood pressure are calcium, magnesium and potassium.
- B-complex vitamins , specifically folic acid / folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin B6 protect against hardening of the arteries and blood clots. Vitamin B3, known as niacin helps raise the good HDL cholesterol in the blood.
- Fiber is of course incredibly important to our general good health. One way it helps the heart is to help lower bad LDL cholesterol levels.
As we can see, there are some foods that are especially high in these heart healthy nutrients which protect your heart and blood vessels. These wonderful healthy foods are listed below. These are all everyday foods that we can very easily and delicately incorporate into our daily diet.
- Almonds – contain good fats that keep cholesterol levels in check and are also a great source of vitamin E, protein and fiber.
- Apples – contain quercetin which is an anti-inflammatory which will also help prevent blood clots. They are also high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Asparagus – a good source of beta carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B vitamins, folic acid / folate and fiber.
- Beans – are high