During the average lifetime, a person’s heart beats almost 2.5 billion times, pumping millions of gallons of blood throughout the body. It’s important, therefore, to do everything you can to keep the system functioning at peak performance.
Along with getting enough exercise, not smoking, and managing your stress levels, eating a varied and healthy diet is an important part of the process.
Here at Health First Primary Care, with two locations in Tampa, Florida, Dr. Gisela Vargas and our team are passionate about keeping your heart beating strongly throughout your entire life.
To that end, we offer cardiology services along with integrative health services to help you make small but meaningful changes to boost your heart health. In honor of American Heart Month, we’ve compiled the following to help you eat healthier.
12 heart-healthy foods to incorporate into your diet
Here are a dozen foods you should make a habit of eating:
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish, including salmon, albacore tuna, and sardines, are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but not high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends you eat 3.5 ounces of fish twice a week to help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
2. Whole grains
Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber, which can improve your blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. In addition to fiber, grains provide many B vitamins, iron, magnesium. and selenium.
Beans are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and essential nutrients, including iron, B vitamins, and potassium. A 2001 study found that people who ate beans at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of heart disease than those who ate them less than once a week.
Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable. However, unlike other fruits (with the exception of olives), most of an avocado’s calories come from heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They improve heart health by lowering both cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
5. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli, are considered “superfoods,” because they have many nutritional benefits. They’re low in calories and rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber.
They also contain antioxidants that protect your cells from free radicals, molecules that can damage cells, thereby reducing your risk of heart disease.
Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, are another “superfood.” They contain anthocyanins, pigmented compounds that help lower blood pressure and protect your blood vessels, especially when consumed three times per week.
Allicin, a sulfur compound found in garlic, is the active ingredient responsible for both its flavor and health benefits. Garlic may help prevent blood clotting and reduce cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk.
Nuts are a “superfood” that contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and polyunsaturated fats. They can lower your LDL or "bad" cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve artery health, lower inflammation levels linked to heart disease, and reduce risk of developing blood clots.
Seeds, like nuts, are a heart-healthy addition to your diet. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds all contain healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
10. Red, orange, yellow, and purple fruits and vegetables
Colored fruits and vegetables contain a number of heart-healthy nutrients. Examples include:
- Lycopene: found in tomatoes, watermelon, and red bell peppers
- Beta carotene: found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and pink grapefruit
- Bioflavonoids: found in oranges and peaches
- Phenolics: found in plums and eggplant
All these nutrients are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
11. Olive oil
Olive oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fats, which can lower your blood cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease. It’s also a tasty addition to a wide variety of dishes and salads. It is, however, a concentrated source of calories, so use it in moderation.
12. Dark chocolate
Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an antioxidant — specifically, flavanols, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Studies suggest chocolate that contains 70%-85% cocoa may lower the risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.
If you want to learn more about heart-healthy foods or how to boost your cardiac health, give Health First Primary Care a call, or schedule an appointment with us online. We can help.