12 Heart-Healthy Foods To Add To Your Diet
Diet plays a major role in protecting your heart health. Flavourful meals prepared with foods that are rich in healthy fats and antioxidants can help manage early signs of heart disease. Plan your weekly meals with these heart-healthy foods to cut your risk of cardiovascular conditions.
The heart is solely responsible for pumping blood in our bloodstream and keeping us alive. So, it's our job to ensure its functioning with the right amount of effort–not overexerting or underperforming.
Yet, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of mortality worldwide. The World Health Organization reveals that 85 per cent of global deaths are caused by heart attacks and strokes. Increased prevalence of heart-related disorders can be seen in the Indian population as well. As per a 2022 statical report issued in the paper Health, Pharma, and Medtech, 2.9 per cent of young adults (20-29 years), 2.6 per cent of adults (30-44 years), 5.7 per cent of older adults (45-59 years), and 17 per cent seniors (above 60 years) suffer with heart-related issues across India.
Some activities such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, heavy consumption of alcohol, and a diet high in cholesterol, fat, salt, and sugar are the main culprits that increase the risk of developing heart disease. Thankfully, there are steps we can take to live a lifestyle that protects our heart health. To encourage a healthier heart health, get 150-minutes of moderate exercise each week and consume a diet that consists of heart-healthy foods. Although altering eating habits can be tough, once you understand which foods to consume more of, you'll find it's quite easy to switch to a heart-healthy diet.
Related story: What to Eat For A Healthy Heart
13 Heart-Healthy Foods That Can Keep Heart Diseases At Bay
1. Green Tea
Drinking green tea three or more times per week is ideal for improving the health of the heart, as it could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Green tea may lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Source: European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
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Herbs are extremely potent sources of antioxidants. Condiments such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and berberine can decrease inflammation, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol which are root causes of heart ailments if consumed daily food. So use herbs freely to add bursts of flavour to your meals and reap their cardio-protective benefits.
Source: Cleveland HeartLab
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3. Indian Mackerel
When it comes to choosing the best fish for a healthy heart diet, Indian mackerel is one of the great options as it is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids. It is recommended to consume mackerel once a week to reduce heart -related illnesses like heart attack and stroke.
Source: BioMed Research International
4. Red Wine
Polyphenols called resveratrol, the concentrated antioxidants present in red wine may help reduce conditions that lead to heart attacks. Polyphenols protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart, reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and prevent blood clots in the arteries.
However, it is suggested that drinking wine in moderation is the best way to reap heart-related benefits. One drink is equivalent to 5 ounces or 148 millilitres of wine. One drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men below 65 years of age is recommended.
Source: Mayo Clinic
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Sardines are a type of fish packed with Omega-3 acids. Fish oil from sardines increases “good” cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of sudden heart attacks. Since sardines feed on plankton (organisms found in water) only, which means they don’t contain high levels of mercury, it is ideal for heart health.
Source: Health Cleveland Clinic
6. Soyabean (Edamame)
Soybean or Edamame bean is a popular food crop which is eaten whole and cultivated as immature soyabeans in the pod. These beans range from light brown, tan, or beige in colour.
As per a 2019 study, consuming an average of 25 grams of soya protein per day may reduce lipoprotein cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by upto 4 per cent. Besides being rich in soy protein, edamame is also loaded with healthy fibre, antioxidants, and Vitamin K.
Source: The Journal of Nutrition
Garlic is a kitchen staple that is used to increase the aroma and flavour. Also, garlic possesses therapeutic qualities for its potential prevention of different conditions, from the common cold to heart diseases. It also is full of sulphur-based compounds, which give garlic its pungency. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and a compound called allicin that helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Apples are an excellent source of polyphenols which are mostly present in its peels. Apple polyphenols include flavanols [catechin and proanthocyanidins (PAs)] which help lower cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, prevent platelet aggregation, and block inflammatory responses in and on the artery walls.
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Cauliflower is a cruciferous (low-calorie) vegetable that is naturally high in antioxidants, fibre, and Vitamin B, which contains allicin, a component of garlic shown to help lower the risk of heart attacks by reducing cholesterol and chances of arteries hardening.
Source: International Journal of Epidemiology
Oranges are rich in potassium, which makes them an excellent heart-healthy food. Potassium can help control blood pressure because it helps the body release water, thus, reducing blood pressure. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through urine. Potassium also lessens pressure in your blood vessel walls, which further helps to lower blood pressure.
Source: American Heart Association
Related story: The A-Z of Indian Superfoods: Orange
11. Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil is 75 per cent concentrated with monounsaturated fatty acids. When substituted for saturated fat, monounsaturated fats help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol as it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Source: Harvard Health Publishing
12. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate possesses nutrients such as flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols, and stearic acid which may reduce inflammation and increase good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol. Eating chocolate more than once a week decreased the risk of coronary artery disease by 8 per cent. Besides, it also lowers the risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.
Source: European Society of Cardiology
Related story: 6 Healthy Reasons To Eat Dark Chocolate
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