Inside Scoop: The top superfoods for your heart based on science.
A truth that’s hard to swallow?
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of premature death globally and also the one that’s largely preventable in the majority of the population.
Here’s what the World Health Organization identifies as 4 of the main behavioural risk factors for cardiovascular disease (which are all under our own control):
- An unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Alcohol abuse
But, here’s an easy pill to swallow. Since these factors are under our own control, small changes (and by all means start today) will go a long way for preventative measures in regards to heart disease, especially exercise and diet.
It’s very common that you hear doctors recommend a reduction in sodium for heart health, but there are more dietary measures that you can take for heart health. Since February is Heart Month and we’re passionate about food, we wanted to share a list of our favourite science-backed superfoods for your heart.
If you’re looking for more information on heart disease you can visit the American Heart Association.
TOP 6 SCIENCE-BACKED SUPERFOODS FOR YOUR HEART
Blueberries are the highest and most readily available source of antioxidants. They have a special type of flavonoids called anthocyanins that help lower blood pressure and make blood vessels more elastic. Try these Paleo Blueberry Cassava Flour Pancakes.
Other antioxidant rich foods: pomegranates, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, goji berries, apples, cabbage, tomatoes, artichokes, dark green veggies and red grapes.
It’s not a coincidence that beets are being used by athletes to improve performance with less exertion. They contain nitrates that convert to nitric oxide in the body which helps to keep blood vessels relaxed, improve circulation and reduce blood pressure. A small recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that beetroot juice may reduce the sympathetic nervous system response (including heart rate, blood vessel constriction and blood pressure) that occurs as a result of heart disease. How about this Vegan Beet Burger with Avocado Mango Salsa for dinner tonight?
Wait, aren’t nitrates bad? Hmm, it depends. Read more on that here.
Garlic is probably one of the most potent and studied superfoods for your heart. It helps lower blood pressure, reduces the rate of atherosclerosis or plaque build-up in your arteries, helps lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Most of those amazing properties are credited to a compound in garlic called allicin produced when you crush and mince the fresh cloves and leave them to stand for at least 10 minutes before consumption.
For supplements, enteric coated tablets are best as they ensure that all the active compounds are properly maintained and released in the small intestine for the greatest benefit. And, for anyone that’s looking to avoid the garlic odor, we’re sorry to say but the process to produce odorless garlic reduces the allicin content to 3% and inactivates all the beneficial enzymes.
However, if you can’t get past the momentary garlic taste, this is a good quality garlic supplement option*.
Oats are best known for their ability to lower cholesterol due to their high content of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that is amazing for your heart. It works by helping to slow the movement of food through the digestive tract and along the way it sweeps up cholesterol with it. This not only helps to remove excess cholesterol from the body, but also helps to regulate your blood sugar balance keeping you fuller for longer. Oats are an amazing breakfast food and you can try these Easy Overnight Oats or these Warm Peanut Butter Oats as a delicious, hearty and healthy breakfast.
Other fiber rich foods: all your fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.
WILD-CAUGHT SALMON & OTHER HEALTHY FAT SOURCES
Oily fish such as salmon and sardines are one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Those omegas help to reduce inflammation in the body that is linked to blood vessel damage and atherosclerosis. In addition, omega 3s keep your blood flowing freely, reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and lower your overall risk of heart disease.
Keep in mind that the quality of your fish goes down if it’s not wild caught. Farmed fish, has a lot of unknowns (like the quality of the feed). So, try to aim for ‘wild-caught’ and ‘Alaskan’. An omega 3 supplement* can also be useful if you’re not consuming omega 3 rich foods regularly. This Baked Ginger & Soy Salmon is one of our favourite dinners.
Other healthy fats + omega-3 rich foods: flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raw walnuts, raw almonds, olive oil, avocados, raw pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
You didn’t think we’d leave out our favourite superfood for your heart, did you? We’re chocoholics and for so many good reasons. Apart from the fact that dark chocolate is an amazing source of antioxidants and many nutrients including magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and potassium, it’s a been scientifically proven to help lower blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.
What’s the catch? Choose minimally processed chocolate that is low in sugar and contains at least 70% cacao solids. You can find out how to choose the healthiest chocolate here. Also, you can find our favourite chocolate recipes here.
By keeping in mind the lifestyle factors that contribute to heart disease, and adding these heart healthy foods into your diet it’s a great first step to keeping your ticker ticking for as long as possible. Take it one step at a time, and if all the above changes feel overwhelming, start with realistic goals to better manage your success.
*Remember to always talk to your doctor if you are already on prescription medication and if you plan on supplementing with garlic or omega 3s, especially if you are on blood thinners.