November 14, 2021

5 Foods for a Happy and Healthy Heart

We are all aging. There is a point, however, in the aging process where you begin to look at your health a little differently. You take note of when your body does not feel the same after alcohol consumption. Reflux becomes a thing you now have to deal with. You begin to notice people your age talk about blood pressure more often.

It suddenly feels like you should start to think about your heart health a little more seriously. We get it. We want to give you all the nutrition tools to arm your body with the best nutrient content to take care of your cardiovascular system. Here are 5 nutrition tips that help keep your heart healthy and happy.

 

5 Foods for a Happy and Healthy Heart 

1. Grains 

Whole grains make a wonderful addition to a heart healthy diet. It’s important to get a variety of grains throughout your week in order to diversify your nutrient intake. 

Grains such as oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa can elevate your plate by providing fiber that helps lower your Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL–the bad cholesterol)[1].

Whole grains also contain important B vitamins as well as minerals like magnesium and selenium. All of these nutrients have essential roles in our bodies that include prevention of cell damage and creating new blood cells. Magnesium is especially important in heart health because it is involved in the contraction of the heart muscle. 

 

2.  Fruits and Vegetables 

Well I don’t need to tell you that eating fruits and vegetables is healthy for you. But maybe, consider their importance to keep your heart happy and healthy. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients needed to fight heart disease, including vitamins C and E, folate, potassium and fiber. 

Potassium is an essential mineral that plays a key role in the body’s ability to maintain heart health. It helps regulate blood pressure, reduce stress on the heart, and keep your vascular system functioning properly [2]. 

Potassium is one of those minerals that most people are not getting enough of and should focus on getting a little more in their diet. It can be found in many fruits and vegetables — including bananas, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, oranges and apricots.  

Let’s not forget about the fiber in those fruits and veggies. I know, I know. We do talk about this a whole lot. But it’s because it’s soooo important. A high fiber diet is essential for heart health.

Soluble and insoluble fiber play a massively important role in lowering your cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease [3]. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts are great sources of both types of fiber. 

Fiber can also help you control blood sugar levels by slowing down digestion so that glucose enters the bloodstream more slowly than it would without dietary fiber present in food.  If you’re worried about the sugar in fruits, check out the blog post we wrote. 

The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume 25-30 grams of fiber per day. However, current intakes for many adults are around 12 grams per day in women and 15 grams per day in men – well below what is recommended for good health.

raw vegetables on a table

 

3. Fish 

We are big fish lovers here at Nutriving. Not everyone enjoys eating fish, but if you are amenable to adding it twice per week, it can be a wonderful nutrient-dense addition to your meals. 

Salmon, tuna or mackerel all contain anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation and help prevent hardening of the artery walls [4]. These fish also contain Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of “good fat” which play an important role in healthy brain function, reduced inflammation and decreased risk of heart disease.[5] Foods high in omega-3s include fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil. 

Studies have shown that even a moderate consumption of these fatty fish can help improve blood pressure [6].

Bowls with tofu, fish, and legumes

4. Olive Oil 

Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory properties that are good for your heart, and it’s a great source of vitamin E and other antioxidants [7].

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that has been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Studies show that people who eat foods high in Vitamin E are less likely to suffer from heart disease, strokes, and other types of vascular diseases.

Olive oil contains many different types of fatty acids, but it is composed primarily of a monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid. Studies have shown that consumptions of oleic acid can help reduce low-grade inflammation and lower inflammatory biomarkers like C-reactive protein. 

Try our amazing Cilantro Lime Dressing with Olive oil!

 

5. Almonds

We often talk to our clients about consuming a variety of nuts and seeds. One of the reasons for that recommendation is in order to promote a healthy cardiovascular system!

Eating almonds, or any other nut high in unsaturated fats can help to maintain good cholesterol levels and blood pressure [8]. Almonds are also high in fiber which helps you feel full for longer. 

Nuts are also an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and copper – all important nutrients that contribute to the health of your arteries and veins. 

 

Conclusion

It’s never too early to start thinking about your heart health. Whether you are trying to prevent cardiovascular disease or treat it, there are many ways that you can improve the condition of your heart with diet and lifestyle changes. We hope that the 5 heart healthy foods we’ve provided are helpful to having a healthier heart!

 

 

 

References

  1. Bazzano L. A. (2008). Effects of soluble dietary fiber on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and coronary heart disease risk. Current atherosclerosis reports, 10(6), 473–477. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-008-0074-3
  2. Weaver C. M. (2013). Potassium and health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 4(3), 368S–77S. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.003533
  3. Pietinen, P., Rimm, E. B., Korhonen, P., Hartman, A. M., Willett, W. C., Albanes, D., & Virtamo, J. (1996). Intake of dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease in a cohort of Finnish men. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. Circulation, 94(11), 2720–2727. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.cir.94.11.2720
  4. Basu, A., Devaraj, S., & Jialal, I. (2006). Dietary factors that promote or retard inflammation. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 26(5), 995–1001. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.ATV.0000214295.86079.d1
  5. Peter, S., Chopra, S., & Jacob, J. J. (2013). A fish a day, keeps the cardiologist away! – A review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the cardiovascular system. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 17(3), 422–429. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.111630
  6. Ramel, A., Martinez, J. A., Kiely, M., Bandarra, N. M., & Thorsdottir, I. (2010). Moderate consumption of fatty fish reduces diastolic blood pressure in overweight and obese European young adults during energy restriction. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 26(2), 168–174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2009.04.002
  7. [5] Joris, P. J., & Mensink, R. P. (2016). Role of cis-Monounsaturated Fatty Acids in the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease. Current atherosclerosis reports, 18(7), 38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-016-0597-y
  8. Lucas, L., Russell, A., & Keast, R. (2011). Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Current pharmaceutical design, 17(8), 754–768. https://doi.org/10.2174/138161211795428911

 

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I am a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in various clinical settings including dialysis, ICU, and NICU. I am bilingual and have had the pleasure to work with many Spanish/Spanglish speaking individuals.

2 Comments

  1. Carola Jain November 23, 2021 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    These are all important foods that help maintain and promote a healthy body. Fish is especially important, as it’s not only a relatively lean protein but contains healthy fats and vitamins, making it that much better.

    • Catalina Ruz Gatica, MS, RDN, LDN November 23, 2021 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Totally! We love our fish over here!

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