Keeping your heart healthy is important for everyone at every age. It keeps us going strong, day after day, beat after beat. Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising are some things you can do for better heart health. But there’s the old saying “you are what you eat”, and it’s true: when you eat healthy, you stay healthy. Perhaps the most important organ to feed properly is the heart.
Check out our list of 7 excellent foods to keep your blood pressure down and your heart beating strong.
This mineral-rich plant has been cultivated for thousands of years by the native inhabitants of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, and it goes great in everything from muffins to salads to risotto. Quinoa is notable amongst grains for its high protein content as well as being naturally gluten-free. It’s a particularly great source of lysine (an amino acid necessary for tissue growth and repair) and magnesium (which plays an important role in blood pressure regulation). Quinoa is even known to help reduce cholesterol levels. It comes in different varieties like white, red or black and many brands offer organic quinoa.
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and even more exotic variants like goji and acai – all of these delicious, colorful fruits are a fantastic part of a heart-healthy diet. The polyphenols in berries have been shown to provide many different cardiovascular benefits such as reducing blood pressure and fighting inflammation. Berries are a great source of fiber and tasty at any time of the day!
3. Chia Seeds
Fish are famous for their Omega-3 content but in the plant world, chia seeds are the undisputed kings of these healthy fats. They’re also chock-full of antioxidants and essential minerals (like calcium, iron, and magnesium) that keep your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol under control. Try mixing them into a fruit shake, sprinkling them over salads, or even using them as a breadcrumb replacement.
4. Dark Chocolate
You heard us right – many scientific studies back up the notion that chocolate has some powerful heart-health benefits. It’s jam-packed with flavonoids that reduce inflammation while also improving circulation. A May 2012 study by the British Medical Journal found that chocolate with a 60-70 percent cocoa content could actually combat heart attacks and strokes in people susceptible to cardiovascular disease. Never before has dessert been so healthy!
5. Fatty Fish
Some of the more oily types of fish – like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout – are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. These play an important role in regulating blood pressure, keeping a steady heartbeat, and in reducing overall stroke and disease risk.
Even a couple of servings of fish each week can significantly lower your risk of heart disease. But be careful because not all species are equally healthy. Limit your consumption of predatory fishes, like swordfish and tuna, because these tend to have elevated levels of mercury in their meat.
For many vegetarians, beans are already a primary source of protein and soluble fiber, one without the saturated fat content of red meat. But they’re also notable for fighting blood cholesterol levels. And since beans are inexpensive, long lasting, and easy to cook, everyone can benefit from adding some to their regular diet.
Pro tip: canned beans are nearly as good as fresh, but remember to wash them before eating in order to remove the extra sodium!
7. Green Tea
Packed full of antioxidants, green tea has been shown to prevent oxidative damage to cells and to protect against heart disease. It’s hard to get too much of this delicious treat, and the effects are powerful even in the short term: try making a habit of drinking a cup each day! Of course, do remember that green tea contains caffeine and while the content is lower than that of coffee, individuals already dealing with heart disease might want to drink the caffeine-free variety instead to limit their daily intake.