Nearly one-third of all deaths in the world are caused by heart disease. Diet is important for heart health and can influence your risk of cardiovascular disease. Certain foods can affect blood pressure, triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Here are five foods you should eat to improve your heart health:
1. Green leafy vegetables
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, are well known for their high concentrations of vitamins, mineral deposits, and antioxidants. They’re exceptionally high in vitamin K, which helps to protect your airways and promote blood clotting.
They’re also high in nutritional nitrates, which were shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stroke risk, and improve the function of artery lining cells.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are jam-packed with essential nutrients that play a central role in heart health. Berries are also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease. Studies show that eating lots of berries can reduce several risk factors for heart disease. For example, one study in 33 adults with obesity showed that consuming strawberries at two and a half servings for 4 weeks significantly improved insulin resistance and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
3. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health. Interestingly, several studies have associated eating chocolate with a lower risk of heart disease. Consuming chocolate may moderately decrease your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Keep in mind that these studies show an association but don’t necessarily account for other factors that may be involved. Additionally, chocolate can be high in sugar and calories, negating many health-promoting properties.
Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are all great sources of heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Numerous studies have found that adding these seeds to your diet can improve many heart disease risk factors, including inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. For example, hemp seeds are high in arginine, an amino acid associated with reduced blood levels of specific inflammatory markers. Furthermore, flaxseed may help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels well managed. Supplementing your diet with milled flaxseed has many health-promoting benefits for the body. There is evidence that dietary flaxseed lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer and may help other conditions like gastrointestinal health and diabetes.
Edamame is an immature soybean frequently found in Asian cuisine. Like other soy products, edamame is rich in soy isoflavones, a type of flavonoid that may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. In addition to its isoflavone content, edamame is a good source of other heart-healthy nutrients, including dietary fiber and antioxidants. Including soy protein in your diet may lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that including 30 grams of soy protein per day in a lipid-lowering diet improved participants’ blood lipids, reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.