Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., affecting more than 1 in 3 adults. The good news is that minor dietary modifications can have a profound effect on your ability to live a long and healthy life. Here’s how you can leave a lasting, positive impact on your heart health.
BY: KIM DENKHAUS, MS, RD
Pomegranates, Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Cranberries, Cherries.
Berries contain some of the highest antioxidant levels, packing a powerful punch of benefits for the cardiovascular system. Berries are comprised of heart-promoting polyphenols and anthocyanins which act as free radical scavengers to fend off hardening of the arteries.
Antioxidants act as the stable molecule that neutralizes free radicals to counteract cellular damage. While the body produces some antioxidants naturally, it relies on dietary sources (primarily fruits and vegetables) to deliver a healthy dose of antioxidant defense.
Pack a powerful nutritional punch, they are an excellent source of vitamin A and K, folate, potassium, magnesium, and a good source of calcium. Beets are naturally high in dietary nitrates, which have been linked to improved blood flow.
Beet root has been a hot topic amongst athletes for its ability to enhance performance through increased blood flow to the exercising muscle, allowing for an extended amount of time an athlete can exercise before reaching exhaustion.
Salmon is high in the polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA), which may decrease triglycerides levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce the build up of atherosclerotic plaque. Omega-3 fatty acids are also linked to accelerated brain function, eye health, and assist with dry skin and hair.
Salmon is a great source of lean protein. Its pinkish red color contains a powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, which is part of the carotenoid family. We cannot produce astaxanthin ourselves, so we must rely on dietary intake.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, especially fatty fish low in mercury content at least 2 times per week (serving size: 3.5 oz cooked).
Pecan, Hazel Nut, Cashew, Almond, Walnuts
Don’t fear the fat!
Studies suggest that people who consume nuts daily are leaner than people who don’t! Nuts are a nutrient rich, cardio-protective food that contain heart healthy nutrients such as unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E, potassium, and phytosterols.
Regular consumption of nuts may lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, help with weight management, and moderate swings in blood sugar. Nuts are a great source of protein, contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and are loaded with dietary fiber.
Sunflower, Pumpkin, Chia, Hemp
Seeds are high in soluble fiber, which is an important component for regular digestive health. A diet high in fiber helps naturally lowers cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and makes you feel full longer.
Many seeds are high in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps lower the risk of heart disease. Seeds are also loaded with powerful vitamins and minerals which help boost the immune system.
Contains flavonoids called polyphenols which are a type of antioxidant that helps relax blood vessels, improves circulation, and lower blood pressure.
Cacao may also help reduce bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol, as well as reduce inflammation in the body. Cacao is rich in magnesium, which is important for muscle and nerve function, aids in bone and teeth development, and keeps the rhythm of the heart steady.
Research also suggests that substance in dark chocolate create the same euphoric feelings of excitement that you experience when you’re in love! Aim for at least 70% raw cacao, the darker the better!
Kim Denkhaus, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with her private practice based in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In a modern-day society focused on convenience and fast-paced lifestyles, Kim is on a mission to help people reconnect with food in a sustainable, healthier way that will help them appreciate where their food comes from and empower them to use whole foods to fuel and nourish their bodies. Learn more about Kim’s field-to-fork philosophy in nutrition and connect with her.