5 Heart-Healthy Foods to Boost Your Cardiovascular Health

Decades upon decades of clinical research have provided us science-supported guidelines on how to eat for a healthy heart. Yet heart disease in its various forms still remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for about one in three deaths each year.

Perhaps the sheer amount of diet information online has confused or intimidated you, but take it from Dr. Erick Calderon of Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants — keeping your heart in good shape is really not all that complicated. To get you started on the right track, here are five heart-healthy foods to boost your cardiovascular health.

1. Whole grains

Grains have three main parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran. Whole grains include all three parts, whereas refined grains only include one and sometimes two. The bran and the germ comprise most of the nutrients in grains, including fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. 

Examples of whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and rolled oats. These grains are high in fiber, which is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, decrease blood pressure, and lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind that can contribute to arterial diseases).

When buying grains at the grocery store, make sure to look for the right terminology: “Whole wheat” and “whole grain” indicate that the entire grain is present in the product, while terms like “wheat flour” and “multi-grain” may not.

2. Fish 

Certain fatty fish have been found to improve cardiovascular health because of their concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, a compound important for keeping particular metabolic markers at healthy levels. Those markers are: triglycerides, blood pressure, “good” HDL cholesterol, artery plaque, and inflammation. 

To protect your heart, try to eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week (as per the American Heart Association’s recommendations). Heart-healthy fish include salmon, sardines, tuna, shrimp, and pollock. Try to avoid fish with high mercury content, though, such as king mackerel fish. 

3. Leafy green vegetables

Dark green, leafy vegetables are known for their multitude of health benefits, ranging from brain health to hormone production to heart health. Leafy green vegetables have so many health-promoting qualities because they contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Leafy green vegetables are particularly good for your heart because they contain ample vitamin K and dietary nitrates, two important factors that keep your cardiovascular system running smoothly. Next time you’re at the store or farmers’ market, pick up a bundle of kale, bagged spinach, broccoli, or collard greens. 

4. Berries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries taste great atop yogurt, oatmeal, or pancakes — and they’re insanely good for your heart, too. Berries are rich in antioxidants, important compounds that protect your body from free radicals. 

Free radicals are important for some functions, such as fighting infections, but they can cause oxidative stress if they outnumber antioxidants. Oxidative stress, in turn, can lead to inflammation, a leading cause of heart disease. 

Eating berries on the daily can help fight oxidative stress and inflammation, thus protecting you from heart disease. Berries have also been associated with other heart disease risk factors: They may lower your LDL cholesterol, reduce your blood pressure, and help control blood clotting.

5. Nuts and seeds

Like fish, nuts and seeds are jam-packed with healthy fats. But they have an added bonus: High concentrations of important nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, magnesium, and copper. Some research has shown that regularly eating nuts is associated with an overall lower risk of heart disease, while seeds are linked to better cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.

To learn more about heart health or find out where you stand, visit Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Calderon by calling our Bradenton, Florida office at 941-404-7958 or book your appointment online.

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