When we’re young, we often take our health for granted, indulging in all sorts of unhealthy foods without much thought about the consequences. But as we age, our bodies become less resilient, and the consequences of our unhealthy diets can catch up with us.
In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and many of these deaths could be prevented by making simple changes to our diets. Some estimates suggest that as much as 80% of cases of coronary heart disease can be prevented with a healthier diet and lifestyle.
So here are 8 delicious foods that you may have overlooked, but that can make all the difference when it comes to supporting your heart’s health.
Berries are packed with heart-healthy antioxidants that can help protect your heart from damage caused by reactive oxygen species. They are also low in calories and high in fiber, which can help control your weight and lower your risk of heart disease. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are some of the best options.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and significantly decrease your risk of heart disease. Healthy eating guidelines typically recommend that you should eat at least 8 ounces of fish or seafood every week.
Oats, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are packed with fiber. This combination is perfect for regulating your blood sugar and lowering your cholesterol levels. They also provide essential vitamins and minerals that support your heart health. Refined carbohydrates from foods like white bread, white rice, and pasta do not provide the same benefits, so choose whole grain varieties for a better option.
Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts and seeds are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. They have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, improve blood vessel function, and reduce inflammation. Even just one handful of nuts each day can have a huge impact on your heart health.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidant flavanols, which help to improve blood flow, lower your blood pressure, and reduce the risk of oxidative stress damage to your heart and blood vessels. However, be aware that some brands of chocolate may be high in calories and added sugars, so enjoy it in moderation.
Spinach, kale, mustard leaves, and other leafy greens are densely packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, without giving you a high amount of calories. This helps to control your weight, nourish your body, and substantially reduce your risk for heart disease. But go easy on the salad dressings, as these often contain high amounts of unhealthy fats and added sugars.
Green beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar control. They provide lots of fiber and heart-healthy fats, meaning they’ll be good for your digestion and good for your heart. There are many different types of legumes you can try, and they can be easily combined with all sorts of different flavors and ingredients.
Avocados are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and minerals like potassium and magnesium. They have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve blood vessel function. Avocados are also high in calories, though, so you may need to moderate your consumption if you are trying to lose weight.