Eat Right To Beat Right – 15 Heart Healthy Foods
Risk factors that affect the heart are numerous, including hypertension, inflammation, and high levels of cholesterol. Cutting down on saturated fat may help lower cholesterol levels but this does not address all the other conditions that are heart-unfriendly because you miss out on other dietary chances to further protect your heart. You can also have a diet that can tame hypertension and inflammation but do not slash cholesterol levels.
But don’t lose heart, apart from living a healthy lifestyle, here are 15 foods you should consume, which will eventually help you deal with heart disease from all angles.
Reign in your High Blood Pressure
Hypertension is defined by blood pressure that is 140/90 or higher and is the most common risk factor for heart disease. An elevated blood pressure makes the heart pump blood harder, which creates the domino effect, which starts with damaged artery lining, leading to plaque buildup, and ultimately heart attack or stroke. A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or lower and can be maintained by eating the following foods regularly.
- Swiss chard is a potassium powerhouse with almost 1,000 mg per cup, cooked, in addition to calcium and magnesium, all vital to hypertension prevention. To keep blood pressure low, 4,000 mg of potassium is needed per day. Low potassium levels causes sodium levels to increase which, in turn, causes fluid build up in cells, also increasing blood pressure. If Swiss chard is too bitter for your taste, there is also the rainbow variety (with yellow, red, or hot pink stalks) that is less bitter.
- Fresh herbs are a healthier substitute for salt. A teaspoon of salt contains nearly 2,400 mg of sodium, which is more than enough to raise blood pressure. In place of salt, you can use chopped fresh herbs; the dried varieties are less flavorful. In addition, herbs are also rich in antioxidants, which help prevent heart disease by protecting the cells against damage. If you are cooking potatoes, the perfect complement is rosemary, parsley for eggs, sage with poultry, and thyme to air-popped popcorn. But if you absolutely have to use salt, use the kosher variety and mix with crushed herbs like oregano, thyme, and lavender.
- Low-fat or nonfat yogurt is perfect for breakfast or a snack. Compared to low-fat milk, yogurt has 50 percent more blood pressure–lowering calcium and potassium. A diet rich in both minerals low in sodium lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressures, especially in people who already have high blood pressure. The closer you can get to the healthy blood pressure level of 120/80, the healthier your heart will be. Low-fat or nonfat milk is the next best option if you don’t like yogurt. Aside from drinking the milk, you can also use it when cooking, especially as water substitute for packaged foods, like instant oatmeal, condensed soup, and hot chocolate.
There are many well known natural high blood pressure treatments that use herbal and homeopathic remedies. Conventional medicines usually treat the symptoms of high blood pressure, but seldom address the underlying causes. Naturopaths recognize that high blood pressure may be a sign or symptom of imbalance in the body and know that the best way to treat it is by a combination of lifestyle changes and natural remedies to remove the causes of the high blood pressure, rather than simply treating the symptoms.
Control your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a lipid present in blood, which is important in building cell walls and making certain hormones. However, too much cholesterol in the blood may cause buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls, blocking blood flow, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. Together with other lipids, cholesterol circulate in blood attached to lipoproteins, of which there are two kinds. Low density lipoproteins (LDLs) are also called bad cholesterol because they tend to deposit cholesterol on artery walls. High density lipoproteins (HDLs) are the good cholesterols, which carry cholesterol back to the liver. The following foods can help lower your LDL and raise HDL cholesterol.
- Garlic has a mild cholesterol-lowering effect and keeps LDL buildup in the artery walls. To get the full potential benefits, several cloves of garlic a day should be consumed. When cooking, use garlic as often as you can. It goes well with almost anything, including roast meats, poultry, soups, pasta dishes, and vegetables. A teaspoon of chopped or grated garlic is a perfect addition to low-fat mayo when making sandwich spreads.
- Extra-virgin olive oil is a healthier substitute for saturated fat in your diet. Decreasing your saturated fat (cheese, butter, fatty meats) intake by 1 percent decreases LDL level by 2 percent. Carbohydrates like white bread and low-fat cookies can also replace saturated to reduce LDL levels but it also reduces HDL levels. Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, which are compounds that keep LDL cholesterol from sticking to artery walls. Because it is more expensive than regular oil, you can simply use it with salads, breads, or steamed vegetables, instead of using it for cooking.
- Almonds can lower LDL levels from 13 to 20 percent when eaten everyday at one ounce per. This reduction is comparable to that which can be attained from some medications. Almonds have the most vitamin E among all nuts, an antioxidant that protects cells against damage that often leads to atherosclerosis. In addition, almonds are also a good source of calcium. To bring out the flavor, you can toast almonds in a baking pan at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
Research has demonstrated that a combination of natural remedies, regular exercise and dietary changes can make a significant difference to LDL levels and reduce or even eliminate the need for prescription drugs.
Slash your High Blood Sugar
Millions of women have glucose levels high enough to make them pre-diabetic or have Type-2 diabetes and most of them are not even aware of it. Especially for women, Type-2 diabetes is a very significant risk factor for heart disease. The nerves and blood vessels that lead to the heart get damaged and this increases the chances of having a heart attack by a factor of four. Adding the following foods to your diet will help you keep your glucose levels in check.
- Barley has high levels beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that is slowly digested in the body and is the least likely of the grains to spike up your blood sugar. Compared to oats, barley has been found to keep glucose levels down better. Barley can be used as a substitute for flour when making muffins and bread. It can also be served with soups, fish, meat, or poultry in place of rice or potatoes.
- Cayenne chili peppers sprinkled on food help prevent spikes in glucose levels after a meal. Capsaicin is the fiery substance in chili that gives it the glucose-busting factor. Eating a burger seasoned with chili and drinking a sugary beverage will result in lower blood sugar levels compared to the same meal but without the added spice.
- Carrots eaten everyday reduces the risk of diabetes in women by as much as 27 percent. These vegetables and other yellow or colorful veggies are high in antioxidants. You can serve these vegetables with a little healthy fat, like olive oil, to enhance your absorption of the antioxidants.
Shed your Excess Weight
Your chances of developing chest pain or having a heart attack are raised by 17 percent when you are packing a few extra pounds. The risk is raised even higher, as much as 49 percent, if you are obese, with a body mass index of 30 or higher. Excess weight also contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation, diabetes, and other conditions that are related to heart disease. You should incorporate the following foods in your diet to maintain a healthy weight.
- Broccoli, among all other vegetables, has one of the lowest calories. Half a cup of cooked florets has only 27 calories plus 3 grams of fiber, enough to make you fell full. Chopped broccoli absorbs seasonings better when it is cooked.
- Oranges will satisfy your sweet cravings while giving you only 65 calories per fruit. This citrus fruit also contains pectin, a fiber that keeps you full and controls cholesterol. In addition, peeling an orange takes time, helping to increase your satisfaction and control your appetite.
- Lean pork is high in protein. Compared to a high-carb meal, a high-protein meal burns two times more calories. Three ounces of pork tenderloin, one of leanest sources of protein, has only 122 calories, while the same serving of pork top loin has only 147 calories and 5 grams of fat.
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Build up of plaque on the artery walls causes blood clots to form which, in turn, blocks blood flow, and eventually leads to heart attack. Research has shown that inflammatory compounds trigger plaque eruption. Measuring the levels of C-reactive protein determines the level of inflammation and predicts heart trouble much better than high cholesterol does. The following foods can help you fight inflammation.
- Salmon, compared to other seafood, is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with three to six times more of these essential nutrients that help ease inflammation than can be found in shrimp, flounder, and Mahi-mahi. To help reduce the fishy taste of salmon, you can poach fillets in white wine, chicken or vegetable stock, lemon zest, and dill or fennel.
- Black beans are one of the few foods with the most magnesium. Inadequate magnesium in the diet may increase CRP levels. One cup of canned beans is enough to provide you with your daily required amount of magnesium, which is 120 to 320 mg per day.
- Dried cherries are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanins that help neutralize the enzymes that cause plaque to break apart. Fresh cherries give the same benefits but the dried products are more versatile and available year-round. Add these berries to your cereal, wild rice, salads, muffin batter, or yogurt for a healthier meal.
A more natural approach for the prevention of blood clots includes the use of herbal and homeopathic remedies. These remedies contain gentle, natural ingredients, and promote balance in all body systems.