Great for Your Heart – Seventeen Easy-to-Get Plant Foods

First, have a look at this extremely vital organ (click to enlarge)
1000px-human_healthy_pumping_heart_en-svgBasic CMYK

So yeah, the heart is the strongest and hardest working muscle in the body. It’s amazingly complex, so it and your entire cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and vitally connected pulmonary (lung) systems need good care…

Below is a nice selection of beneficial foods for heart health. But they’re good for us in other ways as well, such as cancer prevention, brain health, and so on. To keep it concise, I’ll only concentrate on heart health here and won’t go on about sources or every single reason why, all of which can be found by searching the individual foods online at nutrition or medical sites. And of course there are other heart-healthy foods too, but those listed here are some of the best, and ones I especially like.

As far as serving sizes, it’s up to you of course, but what seems best are bigger servings for the lower calorie/fat foods and smaller amounts for the high fat/calorie foods, according to individual tastes and needs. Just keep your body mass index (BMI) at 25 or lower and don’t overeat regularly or have huge binges, and you can prevent abuse of your system. Such self-abuse of course leads to diseases including diabetes, and that is miserable.

I have most of these foods fairly regularly, so my heart should be pretty healthy. It seems to be. But stress takes a toll, so I need to be cutting down on that. Exercise is of course important too and I get in some of that every day. And thank goodness for those hyperactive little doggies who make me get out for walks & hikes regularly. If I skip a day they hound me without mercy. 😩

So, here is solely the food “prescription” for a healthy heart, in my estimation going by studying nutrition research online. Images are public domain. In alphabetical order:

Asparagus ~

asparagusIt has high amounts of the amino acid asparagine which is a natural diuretic, increasing urination and ridding the body of excess salt. That’s especially good for people with edema, high blood pressure or other heart conditions. Asparagus is also loaded with antioxidants which neutralize cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

Avocados ~ 

avocado-878958_960_720They contain healthy monounsaturated fats which may lower heart disease risk factors. They’re also high in antioxidants and in potassium. They go great with big green salads along with tomatoes.

Bananas ~

banana-1025109_960_720Not only a tasty satisfying treat to replace candy and such, bananas are high in potassium which helps to lower blood pressure, giving you a 27% lower risk of heart disease than people with low potassium diets. And bananas are a good source of magnesium which is also important for heart health.   

Berries, notably Blueberries ~

berries-1225101_960_720Eating more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries a week significantly lowers risk of heart attack, said benefit due to compounds known as anthocyanins, flavonoids (which are antioxidants) that may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. Anthocyanins give plants their red and blue colors.

Chia & Flax Seeds ~

chia-397076_960_720They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and thereby good for your heart (as well as digestion & elimination). Flaxseed meal is better digested because the hard seeds mostly pass through undigested. The ground meal should be kept frozen until used, and a couple of tablespoons a day on cereal or in smoothies is a good way to have them.

Chocolate (Dark, 70%+) ~

chocolate-968457_960_720Studies show that dark chocolate may benefit your heart by reducing nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in high-risk people. This applies to only dark (not milk) chocolate; dark chocolate contains flavonoids (polyphenols) which may help blood pressure, clotting and inflammation.

Coffee (black without sugar) ~

coffeeA 2012 NEJM study found a 10 to 15% lower risk of dying from heart disease or other causes in men and women who drank six or more cups of coffee a day, but other research has shown that even two cups can lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 30%. But coffee isn’t necessarily good in large amounts due to the stimulating and heartbeat increase effects, so it’s not for everyone.

Greens – Broccoli, Spinach and Kale, etc. ~

green-vegetables-1149790_960_720Green leafy vegetables are especially good for your heart due to their being high in carotenoids which act as antioxidants to rid your body of harmful compounds. They’re also high in fiber and contain loads of vitamins and minerals, notably vitamins K and A (beta-carotene). Kale also has some omega-3 fatty acids.

Legumes ~

legumes-black-bean-dishBeans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of protein. One study found that people who ate legumes at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of heart disease than those who consumed them less than once a week. And legumes may help control blood sugar in people with diabetes, which is vital for avoiding diabetes complications, including heart disease.

Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and macadamias) ~

mixed_nuts_small_white1All of which contain healthy fiber, and vitamin E which helps lower bad cholesterol. And walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts are high in calories & fat but eating a modest amount daily doesn’t seem to contribute to obesity.

Oatmeal & other Whole Grains ~

oatmealThey’re high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol, acting as a sponge in the digestive tract to soak up cholesterol so it isn’t absorbed into the bloodstream. And all the whole grains provide us with needed vitamins & minerals. This means sprouted breads and other whole grain products like cereals, barley, kamut, etc..

Olive Oil (Extra-Virgin) ~

olive-oil-968657_960_720A 2013 NEJM study showed that people at high risk for heart disease who ate diets high in grains, fruits, vegetables, along with nuts and olive oil reduced their risk of heart attacks, strokes and dying by 30%. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Olives themselves are another source of good fat.

Orange, Red & Yellow Vegetables ~

orange-veggies-sweet-potatoSuch as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and butternut squash are loaded with carotenoids, fiber and vitamins (notably vitamin A as beta-carotene), all of which are great for heart health. I like to get several sweet potatoes, bake them all and have them on hand all week for a great healthy addition to meals. Note: Peppers and gourds (squash) are technically fruits but commonly used as vegetables.

Orange-Fleshed Fruits (especially citrus but including mangoes, cantaloupe, etc.) ~

orangesMeaning fresh whole fruits and juices (no added sugar). The flavonoids in oranges and grapefruits lower risk of ischemic (clot) stroke by 19%. The high vitamin C in citrus is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, as is the fiber. And mangoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin, etc., have the additional benefits of beta-carotene (vitamin A).

Potatoes (russet) ~

potatoes-1388512_960_720They’re rich in potassium which can lower blood pressure, and fiber which can lower risk for heart disease. Provided you keep them low-fat, like with a drizzle of seasoned oil (not deep fried). Besides that, when prepared right they’re delicious and filling.

Soy/Tofu (organic non-gmo) ~

soy-orange-marinated-tofuRich in protein, low fat (polyunsaturated), no cholesterol; soy has been shown to help reduce blood pressure. Tofu contains all eight essential amino acids, and is also a good source of iron, calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamin B1.

Tomatoes (fresh whole, raw or cooked) ~

tomatoesHigh in heart-healthy potassium and a good source of lycopene which helps get rid of bad cholesterol, keeps blood vessels open and lowers heart attack risk. And they’re low in calories and sugar.

 

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