February is American Heart Month. Of course, it’s a good idea to eat a nutritious diet all year round, but this month, Fox News Digital highlights some foods that are especially a boon to your cardiovascular health. Read on and be sure to load these nutrition stars pronto.
Dark leafy green
It’s time to fill up with spinach, kale, collard greens and other dark leafy greens. This recommendation comes from Isa Kujawski, MPH, RDN, founder of Mea Nutrition LLC, who after serving more than 10 years of active service in the Navy and losing his veteran brother to suicide, dedicated his career to helping people use food as medicine .
“Dark leafy vegetables are a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients, including fiber, micronutrients, and bioactive plant compounds known as phytochemicals,” says Kujawski, citing a 2018 scientific review published in Nutrients.
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“These nutrients probably protect against cardiovascular disease through various mechanisms, including altering gene expression, regulating blood pressure and lowering inflammation in the body,” she says. “Countless studies have shown the link between consuming dark leafy vegetables and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”
For more on dark leafy vegetables and their health benefits, check out: Dark leafy vegetables: An important superfood.
Erin Kenney, MS, RD, LDN, HCP, CPT, registered dietitian and CEO of Nutrition Rewired is all about incorporating olive oil into your diet to keep your ticker happy.
“Consumption of olive oil, specifically the extra virgin, is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in people at high cardiovascular risk,” she says.
“Olive oil is rich in healthy antioxidants, polyphenols and vitamins and is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats,” she continues, adding that to get the most out of olive oil, avoid heating the oil and use it in a salad instead. or add it to a homemade hummus.
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If you needed another excuse to eat more guacamole, then this is it. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats, says Amy Adams, RDN, LDN.
“Monounsaturated fats increase our excretion rate for LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), which means our body gets rid of them faster. Higher LDL levels can be harmful because LDL brings cholesterol to the heart,” she explains. “A study by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that overweight / obese people who ate more avocados had the ability to lower their LDL cholesterol significantly compared to overweight / obese people who ate a low-fat or moderate diet. fat content. “
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According to Adams, Kenney says adding an avocado to your daily diet can help lower bad cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease, according to health researchers at Penn State.
“Avocado contains healthy monounsaturated fats in addition to potassium and magnesium, both of which help maintain healthy blood pressure,” she says.
“Berries such as blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are high in fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients, all of which work to lower oxidative stress and inflammation in the body,” says Kujawski, pointing to a 2010 study in Nutrition Reviews. “These processes improve blood pressure, vascular function and combat the formation of free radicals. Consequently, clinical studies have shown that berries contribute to lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Kristi Ruth, RD, LDN, Carrotsandcookies.com, emphasizes the importance of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables in general to improve heart health.
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“This will increase your intake of fiber and a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more,” she says.
“Still, blueberries have been identified as being an excellent food when it comes to improving heart health,” she continues, noting that they are high in antioxidants, including anthocyanin, which is a flavonoid, a group of phytonutrients or plant chemicals that are incredible. for heart health.
“Beans are a heart-healthy food made up of fiber and a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. They improve the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation and promoting digestion,” says Kujawski, highlighting published research. in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients. “Beans are rich in soluble fiber, which acts as food for beneficial intestinal bacteria to promote a healthy intestinal flora, which is an important factor in overall heart health.”
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Adams is also all in for Team Bean. “Beans contain plant sterols / stanols. Plant sterols / stanols act as active compounds in our body that are structurally very similar to cholesterol,” she explains. “Consequently, plant sterols / stanols compete with cholesterol for absorption in the small intestine. Overall, this causes less cholesterol to accumulate in our bloodstream. A study showed that consuming 2-4 grams of plant sterols / stanols a day can reduce cholesterol by 10%. “
“Salmon contains omega-3 fats, which have been shown to reduce the risk of sudden death caused by cardiac arrhythmias and all-cause mortality in patients with known coronary heart disease,” says Kenney. “These essential fats help by reducing inflammation in the body. If you do not like salmon, you can get the same benefits of a dietary supplement based on a meta-analysis that found fish oil omega-3 supplements lowered the risk of heart attack and death from coronary heart disease. ”
Kenney recommends aiming for two to three servings of salmon or other high-fat fish (like herring, anchovies or mackerel) a week.
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Think barley, oatmeal, brown rice, millet, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta and more.
“While refined carbohydrates have a bad reputation for their negative impact on health and increased risk of heart disease, whole grains have the opposite effect,” says Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LD, Advisor at Exercisewithstyle.com. “These grains, which are incredibly nutritious as they contain all parts of the grain, are heart-protecting. Many studies have shown a link between whole-grain consumption and heart health.”
“Grape skins contain resveratrol, a powerful polyphenol. Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that have been shown to benefit the human body. More specifically, resveratrol is part of the stilbenoid family. Stilbenoids are a natural compound produced by certain plants such as “reaction to damage. The purpose of stilbenoids is to protect the plant,” says Adams.
“Similarly, resveratrol has been shown to protect the cardiovascular system,” adds Adams. “Several studies have found that heart disease can be linked to oxidative stress, inflammation and endothelial damage. Resveratrol has been shown to reduce oxidative stress, stimulate nitric oxide endothelial production and inhibit vascular inflammation.”
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These crispy, mildly sweet nuts are a boon to heart health.
“Out of all nuts, walnuts are special because they have the highest percentage of omega 6, omega 3 and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart protective,” says Adams. “A study conducted by The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated whether the consumption of walnuts affected lipid levels and blood pressure. During the study, 18 healthy men were on two different diets, with one group having 20% of their calories from walnuts. Each diet was followed by a total of four weeks.In conclusion, participants who consumed more walnuts reduced total cholesterol levels by 12.4%, reduced LDL (or ‘bad’ cholesterol) by 16.3%.
Walnuts are also a research-supported food to support cognition and brain health.
Flaxsed is “one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fat (ALA), which is excellent for heart health,” says Ruth, citing research in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
She also comments that flaxseed is high in fiber and lignans (a phytochemical) and that both of these things are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Thanks to the fiber content, flaxseed is also useful with digestion.