9 Amazing Superfoods for Heart Health

9 Amazing Superfoods for Heart Health

If you’ve had a conversation with your physician regarding your cardiovascular health, you may be aware that there are certain foods to avoid with heart disease or if you have a risk or family history of heart-related conditions or disease. Sodium (salt), trans fats, saturated fats, and added sugars are usually the first thing a cardiologist will tell you to eliminate from your diet if you are trying to improve your heart health, but what should you be eating?

This question can be more complicated, but understanding the benefits of superfoods can help you choose meals and snacks that will keep your heart healthy. Superfoods, a marketing term for nutritionally dense foods that can improve heart health, can play an important role in a healthy diet. The benefits of superfoods include:

  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Lowering bad cholesterol
  • Elevating good cholesterol
  • Helping control weight

 The American Heart Association encourages healthy eating as “one of the most important things you can do for your body.” A well-balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods should include:

  • Fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen)
  • Fiber-rich whole grains
  • Skinless poultry and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low fat dairy products (skim or 1%)
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Non-tropical vegetable oils

What Makes a Food “Super?”

Superfoods have additional doses of vitamins and minerals, and contain antioxidants, healthy fats, and phytochemicals. Antioxidants can help protect the body from harmful chemicals caused by pollutants, chemicals, and the breakdown of certain medications. Antioxidants are thought to prevent some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, some arthritis conditions, and heart disease. Phytochemicals are produced by plants and have protective health benefits. Healthy fats can be good for your overall health and fitness. You may be wondering what foods you should start eating to get the benefits of superfoods.

Examples of Superfoods

There are many superfoods to choose from, but consider integrating some of these into your regular eating habits. 

  1. Green Tea - Rich in antioxidants, green tea has more health benefits than oolong or black tea due to the steaming process of green tea leaves. It contains Vitamin B, folate, manganese, potassium, caffeine, and catechins. Green tea may assist in weight loss, reduce cholesterol, fight cardiovascular disease, prevent cancer, and control the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

  1. Quinoa - High in fiber and protein, this seed contains flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-depressant effects. With a low glycemic index, quinoa helps control blood sugar levels and may increase metabolism, contributing to healthy weight and improved heart health.

 

  1. Dark chocolate - Loaded with organic compounds that function as antioxidants, dark chocolate can improve blood flow in the arteries and significantly decrease blood pressure. This snack favorite can actually improve “good cholesterol” (HDL) and lower “bad cholesterol” (LDL). Dark chocolate can also resist insulin resistance, reducing your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

 

  1. Omega-3’s - Omega-3 fatty acids are found in an array of foods, including fish (salmon, tuna, lake trout, and sardines, among others), walnuts, flaxseeds, and certain oils (including canola, soybean, and flaxseed). Foods with omega-3 fatty acids are great examples of superfoods because of their important and varied health benefits, including, but not limited to:

 

  • Lowering elevated triglycerides
  • Decreasing inflammation (and boosting the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Preventing the formation of harmful blood clots
  • Helping prevent plaque that can restrict and harden the arteries
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Raising “good cholesterol” (HDL)

 

  1. Berries - Anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant, can be found in blueberries, blackberries, black raspberries, black currants, and red grapes. Eating more than 3 servings of berries per week can make a difference in improving blood vessel function, lowering blood pressure, and fighting the signs of aging.

 

  1. Red wine - This might seem too good to be true, but red wine, made from the dark skin and seeds of grapes, is rich in polyphenols, which contain resveratrol, a natural plant compound that has been proven to prevent blood clots and contribute to longevity. In moderation, red wine can improve the function of the layer of cells that lines your blood vessels (endothelium), raise HDL, and helps prevent artery damage.

 

  1. Garlic - Consumed in its natural form, or in powder or extracts, garlic is a great example of a superfood with heart-healthy benefits. Containing Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, manganese, and selenium, garlic also contains allacin, an active component that is responsible for lipid-lowering, anti-blood coagulation effects, and can prevent heart-related conditions like heart attacks and strokes. Garlic can be effective in fighting high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.

 

  1. Avocados - Full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados and avocado oils can lower the risk factor of heart disease and diabetes. Avocados can reduce total cholesterol levels, reduce blood triglycerides, lower LDL and increase HDL. Loaded with fiber, avocados can have important weight loss benefits, leading to better cardiovascular health. Avocados are very high in potassium, which has been linked to reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure, so incorporating potassium into your diet can help you keep heart disease at bay.

 

  1. Olive oil – With lots of heart-healthy benefits, you can choose which type of olive oil will work best depending on your needs, including:

 

  • Virgin Olive Oil (for dips and dressings)
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (for lightly browning or sautéing)
  • Pure Olive Oil (for deep-frying or stir-frying)
  • Light Olive Oil (for baking)

 

With powerful antioxidants, like Vitamin E, olive oil can lower your risk of heart disease by regulating your blood sugar and promoting good cholesterol. 

With powerful antioxidants, like Vitamin E, olive oil can lower your risk of heart disease by regulating your blood sugar and promoting good cholesterol.

Portion control and moderation are key to finding balance in any nutritious diet. Superfoods can be very beneficial to your heart health, but you’ll need to consider your overall nutrition plan. Even if a diet consisting solely of red wine and dark chocolate might sound like a fun idea, you need to make sure to get all of the nutrients your body needs to maintain or improve your health.

Discuss your heart-health goals and concerns with your physician before embarking on any new meal plan, and remember that eating healthy is just a part of the equation. While there are extensive health benefits in superfoods, physical fitness can play an important role in your overall health and well-being as well.

Related Articles:

The Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Boost Your Immune System

How Your Eating Habits Influence Your Heart's Health