The month of February is dedicated to educating the American population about heart health, as heart disease has become a leading killer of both men and women across the nation. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, but one in every four death across the U.S. can be blamed on heart disease. Cardiovascular health problems cost the United States around $219 billion each year, between the costs of medicines, health care services, and the lost productivity of those who suffer or die from the condition. There are many factors that contribute to heart disease, but one of the primary defenses against the condition is a healthy diet. Certain foods affect your cholesterol levels, your blood pressure, inflammation, and triglycerides, all of which impact your heart health. If you want to focus on improving your cardiovascular health, work to incorporate more of the following foods into your diet.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Perhaps one of the strongest food groups in fighting against heart disease, dark green leafy vegetables like collard greens, spinach, and kale hold a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and potent antioxidants. These vegetables are also high in vitamin K, which has been shown to protect your arteries and improve blood clotting abilities. They can be influential in reducing blood pressure, improving cellular functioning within the blood vessels, and decreasing arterials stiffness. These items are in the approved list of foods for the HCG diet, promoting weight loss activities in addition to developing heart health.
Sweet, tasty, and tart, berries like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are loaded with important nutrients that can positively impact your heart health. Berries contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress and the type of inflammation associated with the development of heart disease. Studies have shown the consistent consumption of berries can also lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. It's easy to include berries in your morning yogurt or as a low-calorie dessert. You can also eat a small handful during the middle of the afternoon for a sweet treat.
Whole grains like brown rice, rye, whole wheat, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley are high in fiber, a nutrient that assists with lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. Foods high in fiber also help keep you feeling full for longer periods of time, and this can keep you from snacking on unhealthy foods throughout the day. Whole grain products- not items labeled with words “wheat flour” or “multigrain”- can also help decrease your systolic blood pressure, a move that reduces the risk of stroke by 25%.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been given a lot of attention, and the research shows that products high in these acids have incredible heart-health benefits. Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel contain high amounts of omega-3s, and long-term consumption studies have found that fatty fish can reduce cholesterol levels, fasting blood sugar levels, and blood triglycerides. Correlations have also been found between fish consumption and the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure. If you don’t like eating fish, taking a fish oil supplement has been found to be an effective substitution.
Monosaturated fats are heart-healthy fats associated with reduced cholesterol levels and lower risks for heart disease. Avocados are an excellent source of these fats. Consistent consumption of avocados, such as one a day, had a positive impact on reducing LDL cholesterol levels. Many studies have found LDL levels to be a major culprit of heart disease issues. Studies have also shown that those who eat avocados are less likely to have metabolic syndrome. Avocados also contain about 28% of your daily potassium needs, which is another nutrient essential to cardiovascular health. It decreases blood pressure and lowers the risk of stroke.
You add more fiber and extra nutrients into your diet when you include walnuts in your lunch menu. Just a few servings of walnuts are useful in protecting you from heart disease, as these nuts are loaded with micronutrients like copper, magnesium, and manganese, as well as fiber. These power-punching treats can decrease cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
If you want something more fun in your diet that is still heart-healthy, consider a bite of dark chocolate. It is rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that improve heart health by lower the risk of heart disease. You need to pick high-quality dark chocolate where the cocoa content has reached a minimum of 70%. Keep in mind that chocolate can also be high in sugar and calories, so consume this option in moderation.
To celebrate heart health month, consider changing your diet and paying more attention to what you eat. Being proactive against factors of heart disease decreases your risk and improves your quality of life.
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