7 Foods to Boost Heart Health

With heart disease being the world's leading cause of death, accounting for more than 25% of all deaths, everyone should reevaluate their diet. Eating the wrong foods could increase your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, thereby paving the way for heart disease. However, eating more of the following 7 foods will have the opposite effect and will help promote a healthy heart.

#1) Almonds

With a 1/2 cup packing up to 250 calories, almonds aren't necessarily low in calories but they are still an excellent snack to boost your heart health. They contain substantial amounts of fiber, protein, potassium, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Known as healthy fats, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat are particularly beneficial because they keep blood cholesterol levels in check. As blood flows freely through your body, you'll have a lower risk of stroke and heart attack.

#2) Salmon

Making salmon a regular part of your diet will suppress inflammation in your body and lower your risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis of 20 studies on the health benefits of fish found that adults who ate 1 or 2 servings of fatty fish per week (such as salmon) were 36% less likely to die from heart disease than their counterparts who didn't eat any fish. Like almonds, salmon contains healthy fats that reduce plaque buildup in the arteries.

#3) Spinach

There's a reason spinach is Popeye's favorite food, and it's not the flavor. While many prefer the flavor and versatility of spinach, this leafy green vegetable offers a myriad of benefits for your heart health. A single serving, for example, contains about 18-20% of the recommended daily intake of folate. Folate, along with folic acid, protects the heart from disease by regulating levels of the amino acid homocysteine. When homocysteine levels increase, it stresses the heart and increases the risk of disease. But spinach can help your body control this amino acid and improve your heart health.

#4) Jicama

If you enjoy foods with a nutty flavor, try adding jicama to your diet. Also known as Pachyrhizus erosus, it's a root vegetable that's semisweet with a peanut-like flavor. Thanks to its nutrient-rich composition consisting of antioxidants like Vitamin C and beta-carotene, jicama can protect your heart from disease. Research has shown that people who consume lots of natural, plant-based antioxidants have a lower risk of heart disease than people who consume few or no plant-based antioxidants.

#5) Avocado

Avocados are often misunderstood because of their high-fat content. With 1 cup containing nearly one-third of the daily recommended intake of fat for the average adult, many people are reluctant to include them in their diet. In reality, though, avocado is a nutritious food that promotes a healthy heart. Most of the fat in avocados is either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat, and studies have shown that consuming them regularly can lower a person's risk of heart disease.

If you prefer to turn your avocado into guacamole, don't add too much salt. Dumping tablespoonfuls of salt in your guacamole will negate the heart health benefits of this delicious fruit.

#6) Sweet Potato

Rather than eating white potatoes with your meals, switch to sweet potatoes. A 1-cup serving contains 377% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Some people assume that vitamin A only affects the eyes and skin, but this isn't true. Vitamin A also plays a role in heart health. Some studies have shown that pregnant women are especially prone to vitamin A deficiencies in their third trimester, so if you are pregnant take extra care to get plenty of vitamin A.

#7) Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is often perceived as candy, offering little or no nutritional value. While true for most milk chocolate, dark chocolate is a different story. Characterized by a high concentration of cocoa with little or no milk, dark chocolate contains beneficial compounds like polyphenols and flavanols that promote a healthy heart. When consumed, they'll reduce inflammation and fight free radicals.

Eating more of these 7 foods will set you on the path for a healthier heart. For maximum benefit, however, you should also follow an exercise regimen that consists of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every other day. When combined with a healthy diet, you'll minimize your risk of heart disease and live a happier, healthier life, and you'll feel so much better.

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10/31/2018 7:00:00 AM
Tracy Dudley
Written by
Tracy Dudley is a Registered Dietitian. She is passionate about getting children in the kitchen at a young age, and believes this is key to forming healthful habits for life. She works to identify imbalances and deficiencies and create individualized therapies to improve overall health and wellness.
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