Nutrition experts are known to warn people against the dangers of foods that clog the arteries, but not as much about foods that keep the arteries clear, strong and healthy. Here are six foods that are known to contribute to the health of the heart:
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty, cold-water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help the body remove the “bad,” or LDL cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, which then flushes it out of the body. These fish actually don’t make their own omega-3 fatty acids but get it from the foods they eat.
The fish to look for when it comes to heart health are, among others, salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna.
Though nuts are high in fat, a few of them are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. These include walnuts, as well as the iron, magnesium and potassium that are also needed to support the workings of the cardiovascular system. They’re also fairly low in calories. Fresh chestnuts are leaner than most other nuts, with only about 70 calories a serving.
Berries are famously abundant in anti-oxidants. These are substances that protect the body, including the arteries, from damage by free radical oxygen molecules. These molecules oxidize LDL cholesterol and cause it to form plaque inside the arteries, which can clog them. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries and cranberries help to combat this damage. They are also high in dietary fiber, which removes cholesterol from the body.
4. Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed is actually the seed of the plant that produces linen, but it is unusual in that it can have levels of omega-3 fatty acids as high or higher than that found in fatty fish. They also have the heart-healthy fiber and phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like substance found in plants. One caveat about flaxseed oil is that it needs to be refrigerated, for it tends to go rancid quickly if left at room temperature. Flaxseed and its oil are delicious sprinkled over salads.
5. Colorful Vegetables
Vegetables that are orange, red or yellow are high in beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is another antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals. These vegetables are also high in dietary fiber and vitamins such as vitamin C, which is another anti-oxidant. These fruits and vegetables include carrots, orange, red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, apricots and mangoes.
Tofu is a product made from soybeans. Specifically, it’s made from curdled soy milk. A truly fantastically heart-healthy food, it is rich in cardiovascular system boosting nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Another good thing about tofu is that it has very little taste of its own and absorbs the flavor of the foods it is added to while providing a satisfying mouth feel.
The good news is that there are many more types of food that support the heart, including oatmeal, dark chocolate and red wine. The foods mentioned are readily available and inexpensive.