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Best Heart Health Foods
Healthy food, happy heart
Diet and nutrition play a large part in heart health. Certain foods can influence blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, which are contributing factors to heart disease. It is important to keep these vitals under control, as healthy levels are the first line of defense against heart disease.
What foods contribute to a heart-healthy diet?
A diet that includes foods that lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, and reduce LDL cholesterol will reduce your risk of heart disease and support heart health.
- Fish high in omega-3s
- Whole grains
- Dark leafy greens
- Olive oil
- Dark chocolate
What foods are bad for your heart?
Fried, processed, and sugary foods that are often associated with being unhealthy are also bad for your heart. Consuming high amounts of foods containing saturated fat, sodium, trans fats, and sugar can raise blood pressure, increase cholesterol levels and increase inflammation.
- Fast-food burgers
- Cured meats, like cold cuts and bacon
- Fried foods
- Soft drinks
- Sugary cereals
- Baked goods
- Canned soup
- Ice cream
- Diet soda
What can I do to lower my risk of heart disease?
Some lifestyle changes are essential to lowering your heart disease risk. Along with a heart-healthy diet, smoking cessation will support overall health as well as heart health. Daily physical activity has also been shown to improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and keeping a healthy weight. Studies suggest that reducing stress levels may help heart health as well, as people under stress often cope by overeating, smoking, or turning to other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
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What about alcohol?
While moderate drinking won’t harm your heart unless you have high blood pressure, heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, strokes, or heart disease. The accepted rule for alcohol consumption is no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. If you don’t drink, it is not recommended to begin or for drinkers to increase the amount they drink.
I have dietary restrictions to some of the heart healthy foods. What can I do?
If you are allergic, vegetarian, vegan, or have other dietary restrictions that prevent you from including some of the heart-healthy options in your diet, you can take supplements and vitamins to get the same benefits. Look for Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), fish oil or omega-3, and magnesium. You can also add garlic to your foods, as it has been shown to support heart health. Green tea lowers LDL cholesterol, increases “good” HDL cholesterol, and keeps blood sugar levels in check.