February is American Heart Month!
Earlier this month, we talked about different types of exercises and how they can help keep your heart healthy and strong. But movement isn’t the only way to maintain your cardiovascular health.
It is equally important to be mindful of what you are eating and putting in your body. For instance, eating too many high-cholesterol foods can lead to fatty deposits in your blood vessels, resulting in high blood pressure.
Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure and don’t even know it! High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and there are many foods that can help maintain lower blood pressure and protect the heart.
The heart affects every part of the body. By living a healthy lifestyle, including exercising and proper nutrition, you can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Heart-healthy eating: the bad
Another important aspect of keeping your heart healthy is healthy eating. Diet plays a major role in heart health and can impact your risk of heart disease. It is important to know the types of things you should minimize or avoid to help your heart.
Fast food is typically loaded in all sorts of unhealthy things like sodium and unhealthy fat, plus can have a full day’s worth of calories in just one meal. Even when adding all the veggies available, there still aren’t many nutrients to be found in fast food.
Processed snack foods like potato chips and crackers have lots of extra salts and sugar. While they may make the snack extra tasty, they are mucking up your insides. In addition, they are simple carbs that don’t do much nutritionally for our bodies.
Dessert is always a nice treat but beware of the insane amounts of sugar that can be found in some desserts. That doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself every once in a while, but be sure you are limiting your portions.
Heart-healthy eating: the good
While it might seem like there is an overwhelming number of foods that are bad for you and your heart health, the list of good foods is even longer!
Garlic has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, so it might not be a surprise to know that it is good for your heart, too. Its components have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Taking an extract or eating it raw will give you the best benefits.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are high in vitamin K and nitrates. These nutrients can help reduce blood pressure and improve the function of the arteries.
Whole grains are associated with lower cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, as well as a lower risk of heart disease. Common types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and quinoa.
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants which protect against different risk factors for heart disease. Eating a few different types of berries will help you take advantage of their unique health benefits.
Dark chocolate is another sweet treat that is good for your heart! Consuming high-quality chocolate with at least 70% cocoa can help boost heart health and lower the risk of heart disease. Of course, all things in moderation!
Avocados can help the heart in a couple of ways. They are full of monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced cholesterol levels and a lower risk of heart disease. They are also packed with potassium, an essential nutrient for the heart. One avocado typically has three times as much potassium as one banana!
Tomatoes, like many of the foods listed, are high in antioxidants. In the case of tomatoes, lycopene has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One study of 50 women with weight issues found that eating two raw tomatoes four times per week increased levels of good HDL cholesterol.
Walnuts, almonds, and seeds are all good for your heart health too! They are all high in fiber, which can help reduce your cholesterol and lower your risk of heart disease.
As you can see, there are tons of options for things to incorporate into your diet to help keep your heart healthy. Check out these heart-healthy recipes from the American Heart Association, where you can also find tips on how to find healthy foods and recipe ingredients at the grocery store.
What is your favorite heart-healthy food? Let us know in the comments!