You probably know that our diets have a huge effect on our hearts. Certain foods can influence blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation, all of which are risk factors of heart disease – which accounts for almost one-third of deaths around the world.
Below are five foods that can help to support a healthy heart, try including these in your diet to help keep your heart in top shape.
Packed full of nutrients, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries play a vital role in heart health. Various studies prove the beneficial effects berries have on the heart, including one study where adults with metabolic syndrome saw a decrease in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol when consuming a drink made of freeze-dried strawberries. Another study showed that eating blueberries daily improve the function of cells that line the blood vessels, helping to control blood pressure and clotting.
Berries are also antioxidant rich, particularly in anthocyanins which protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats that have been linked to reducing levels of cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease. One study of over 17000 people showed that those who regularly ate avocados were less likely to have metabolic syndrome.
These fruits are also rich in potassium, with just one avocado supplying about 28% of the recommended daily intake for an adult. Potassium is one nutrient that is essential for heart health, and getting at least 4.7g per day can decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke.
These vegetables are known for being rich in vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. One vitamin in particular – vitamin K – helps to protect the arteries and encourage proper blood clotting. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are also high in dietary nitrates, which have been found to reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
Various studies have proven the link between the consumption of leafy greens and lowered risk of heart disease with one analysis showing increasing intake was associated with up to 16% lower incidence of heart disease.
Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats and quinoa contain all three parts of the grain: germ, endosperm and bran. The nutrient-rich components mean that whole grains are high in fibre compared to refined grains which may help to reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
Multiple studies prove the benefit of whole grains for heart health, showing that eating three servings of whole grains daily significantly decreased systolic blood pressure and in turn reduce the risk of stroke.
Packed full of antioxidants, dark chocolate may support heart health. Several studies support this theory, with one large study showing that those who ate dark chocolate at least five times a week had a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who didn’t eat chocolate.
It is important to keep in mind though that chocolate can be high in sugar and calories, which can then outweigh the benefits. Try to pick a high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content and eat it in moderation to make the most of its benefits.