Your heart deserves lots of TLC. Unfortunately, modern diets aren’t always designed with the health of our cardiovascular system in mind. Processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt can take a toll on the workhorse of our internal organs, reducing the overall quality and length of life of the average North American.
We’ve put together a list of foods that are good for the health of your heart and cardiovascular system. Ranging from leafy greens and antioxidant rich berries to whole grains and seaweed, there are an abundance of core ingredients that can help to cultivate heart health while tasting good too.
In general, green vegetables have a substantial positive impact on heart health, but broccoli outperforms its peers for several reasons. Many studies have shown the ways in which regular consumption of broccoli and other brassica vegetables help to reduce the possibility of heart attack or stroke. Moreover, a compound known as sulforaphane found in broccoli can help to lower the amount of reactive oxygen molecules in the body, which prevents avoidable damage to blood vessels.
This bulbous plant has a variety of health benefits ranging from stabilizing blood sugar to reducing free radicals in the brain. With the close connection between the heart and brain, it’s no surprise that garlic contributes to heart health as well. Across a variety of studies, garlic has shown to reduce systolic blood pressure, which in turn lowers the risk of heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery disease by 16% to 40%.
Nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich, this leafy-green vegetable has been studied extensively for its benefits to heart health (among other things). One interesting attribute is its ability to bind bile acids within the digestive tract, preventing absorption of low-density lipoprotein (i.e., bad cholesterol) by your body. With lower cholesterol levels, the heart and cardiovascular system experiences less stress.
Nutritionists have long celebrated blueberries for their rich antioxidants, but the degree to which this superfood helps to prevent damage to your cells cannot be understated. A study found that the consumption of a drink made from wild blueberries over a six-week period resulted in a significant reduction of oxidative stress and oxidized DNA. Just by eating this sweet-and-tart-tasting fruit, people can reduce inflammation that would otherwise have long-term negative effects on their cardiovascular system.
As a good source of soluble fiber and an abundant supply of key vitamins and minerals, oats are understandably a heart-healthy favorite among nutritionists. Established studies have shown that the beta-glucan found in oats are a fundamental polysaccharide for anyone looking to diminish their low-density lipoproteins (and cholesterol in general). As a result, diets rich in oats can contribute to the reduction or even prevention of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Generations of coastal dwellers around the globe have appreciated the heart health benefits of seaweed in their diets. As modern markets, far from the coast, gained interest in and exposure to seaweed, there has been a growing recognition in the value that this marine resource can provide towards heart health.
Studies show that fucoidan and fucoxanthin, two key organic components found in a variety of seaweed species, help to prevent damage to vascular endothelial cells. Fucoidan induces the production of nitric oxide, which maintains normal vascular cell function; and fucoxanthin delays the induction of apoptosis, which means that healthy cells last for longer before they die out.
Plus, the link between a seaweed diet and heart disease prevention, improving blood lipid profiles by clearing out triglycerides and bad cholesterol, makes it a must-eat for anyone trying to take care of their heart – in February and all year ‘round.
Are you looking to provide people with more supplements and foods to eat for heart health? Find out about the full benefits of a variety of seaweed in our webinar The Secrets of Seaweed.