Heart diseases account for nearly a third of all deaths worldwide, with diet being the key contributor. Taking heart-friendly foods, however, can help keep in check cholesterol levels, blood pressure, triglycerides and inflammation, which increase the risk of heart diseases.
Whole grains as opposed to refined grains are higher in vitamins, minerals and fibre that help to keep the heart healthy by lowering LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol and triglycerides. A combination of high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high triglycerides puts the heart at risk. Opt for foods in their natural form to maximise on their benefits.
Some common types of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal and brown bread. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Nutrition shows that whole-grain oats are the most effective whole grains for lowering cholesterol as they have a soluble fibre called beta glucan, which blood cholesterol-lowering properties.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Their wealth in vitamins, antioxidants and minerals help promote blood clotting and protect the arteries. Leafy green vegetables are high in dietary nitrates that aid in reducing blood pressure, improving the function of cells lining the blood vessels. Increase your intake of leafy green vegetables, as they are a great source of Vitamin K, which enables the heart to pump efficiently through the body. Leafy greens are also low in calories and are the most ideal boost to your heart. Examples include spinach, collard greens and kale.
This fruit provides the heart and the entire body with healthy monounsaturated fats that are linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower metabolic syndrome. They are packed with phytochemicals and vitamins that act as antioxidants that lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Avocados are also high in potassium, a nutrient essential to the heart.
Protect your heart by eating beans as they reduce the levels of blood triglycerides. A diet packed with beans decreases levels of LDL cholesterol, inflammation and blood pressure, which are all risk factors for heart diseases. Beans have an added advantage to the heart, as they are high in fibre that helps control both blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Opt for mild and tender black beans, as they are not only packed with nutrients but also with magnesium and resistant starch, which assist in lowering blood pressure.
Although chocolate can be extremely high in calories and sugar, we should not negate its health benefits to the heart. When shopping for chocolate, be sure to pick a high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70 per cent cocoa content. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and eating chocolate twice per week will lower your chances of developing coronary heart disease. Consumption of dark chocolate is also associated with a lower risk of developing calcified plaque in the arteries. Additionally, munching on some dark chocolate will reduce your stress levels considerably.
Tomatoes are jammed with lycopene – an antioxidant that helps prevent inflammation and oxidative damage that may contribute to heart problems. It works by lessening the existing LDL cholesterol thus keeping the heart in check. If your current diet is not giving you the needed antioxidants, add a couple of thick slices of tomatoes to your diet and protect your heart. They are not only heart friendly but are also low in calories making them a perfect fit for a healthy diet.
In recent years, research has shown garlic’s potent medicinal properties and found that it can also help improve the general health of the heart. Its extracts inhibit accumulation of platelets thereby lowering the chances of stroke and blood clots. Garlic also has a compound known as allicin that helps to attain and maintain a robust heart while its sulphur levels improve circulation by aiding blood flow.
This article was first published in the February Issue of Parents Magazine
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