Good Food Equals Good Heart Health

How a Heart Healthy Diet Can Decrease the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

The human heart is the miraculous organ in our body that pumps blood to every single cell. About the size of your fist, it pumps blood into your lungs and through your arteries, veins and, capillaries. This complex muscle works efficiently when a healthy lifestyle is adapted through exercise and a heart-healthy diet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Some factors are uncontrollable such as age, race, and genetics, but even with these risk factors, one can better control and reduce his or her chances of heart disease by taking preventative measures.  Studies suggest that what we eat directly affects our heart health.

The American Heart Association takes a commonsense approach to eating well, which ultimately puts less stress on the heart, reduces artery-clogging “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and can even reduce blood pressure. Coupled with physical activity, we can significantly decrease our chances of cardiovascular disease.

According to Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, a dietitian with the Preventive Cardiology Center at The Cleveland Clinic, “You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating these foods every day.” Dr. Larry Weinrauch purports that the Mediterranean Diet, “is associated with a lower risk of death from all causes including deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer in the US.”

Foods rich in antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, B-complex vitamins, and a host of heart healthy nutrients are ones that come from the earth and contain as few man-made preservatives as possible. Eating heart healthy foods includes combining a virtual cornucopia of Mother Nature’s best riches. What could be better?

What is a heart healthy diet? Listed below are just a few foods that should be incorporated into your diet for optimal heart health. These foods are some of the very best for heart health, recommended by the American Heart Association, nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic, and the American Dietetic Association and are foods associated with the Mediterranean Diet.

  • Fish (wild salmon, tuna, sardines)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds)
  • Whole grains (oats, barley, whole wheat, brown rice)
  • Legumes/pulses (lentils, black and red beans)
  • Vegetables (dark leafy greens, spinach, eggplant, asparagus, red pepper, red pepper, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomato, onions, garlic)
  • Fruits (cantaloupe, papaya, oranges, blueberries)
  • Red wine (limit one glass per day for women; two for men)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Small amounts of plant oils (olive, canola, safflower)

Choosing low fat or skim milk is best, as is limiting red meat and sodium. Limiting your intake of foods that contain saturated fat and are high in cholesterol (fatty meats, cheese, butter) and foods containing trans fat and added sugars (processed foods, fried foods, commercial baked goods) can have a dramatic affect on your health.

Once you establish a heart healthy diet, you’ll become more aware of how the foods you ingest directly affect not only your physical health, but your emotional health as well.

Read labels. Eat minimally-processed foods from the earth. Taking charge of your health, making conscious decisions to honor your body by eating heart healthy foods and maintaining an exercise regime will greatly improve the quality of your life.

For more information about food composition and nutrition links, visit the USDA website.

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