Show your ticker some love by filling up with research-backed, heart-healthy foods and dodging a few others.
According to 2016 research conducted by Norwegian scientists, eating just 1 ounce of peanuts and tree nuts—which include almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios and more—per day is connected to a 20 percent reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause. The likely hero: nuts’ heart-supporting monounsaturated fats. Nosh on a full handful per day (around 25 almonds).
Caution: Go for raw nuts whenever possible. Many packaged nuts use oils and salt to flavor the nuts that can add the wrong kinds of fats and unnecessary sodium. Also, avoid candied nuts, whose sugar and carbohydrate contents may just negate any possible benefit.
Packed full of omega-3s, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Research shows that omega-3s reduce plaque buildup in your arteries, lower blood pressure and even reduce risk of an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Aim to eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week, each around 3.5 ounces (about the size of a standard checkbook).
Caution: Avoid farm-raised fish, which can be as high in the wrong kinds of fats as a hamburger made from beef cattle that have been raised on feed and antibiotics. Also, avoid fish that may be high in mercury and other heavy metals/toxins. You can find a list of these fish at ewg.org.
EAT: BLUEBERRIES and STRAWBERRIES
Loaded with the antioxidant anthocyanin, whole berries offer numerous heart-health benefits. A 2016 meta-analysis from Chinese researchers found that daily berry intake significantly lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure and other biomarkers for heart disease in both healthy people and those with ailing hearts. Even better: Fresh and frozen berries deliver the same benefits. Add a handful to salads and your morning smoothie or overnight oats.
Caution: Strawberries rank number one on the Environmental Working Group’s list of dirty dozen for pesticide residue, and blueberries rank 17 on the extended list, so consider paying the extra for certified organic versions of these fruits. Also, eat these fruits in the raw without added syrups and sugars, which would negate the potential health benefits of the fruits.
AVOID: SALT, SUGARS, TRANS FATS
Heart health depends on the foods you don’t eat, too. Excess salt can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels, so limit your sodium intake to fewer than 2,300 mg per day by prioritizing unprocessed foods. Soda’s simple sugars and even artificial sweeteners significantly increase heart disease risk. And man-made trans fats raise bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol.
Caution: To help you avoid trans fats, look for hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list of processed foods, even if the nutrition label states the product has 0 mg trans fats, because manufacturers can legally print they have no trans fats as long as the amount falls below a certain number. Look for aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame K, saccharin, etc., even in foods, if you are working to avoid artificial sweeteners.
We are what we eat. Besides stress management and regular exercise, choosing foods wisely is important to maintaining your healthy heart.
Article copyright February 2018 by Delicious Living and Jenna Blumenfeld. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider.