June 28, 2020
Contrary to what the name might suggest, superfoods are neither exotic nor expensive. They are usually common, affordable, and fairly easy to incorporate into your diet for healthy eating.
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant-based and animal proteins. They are recommended by nutrition experts as healthy food choices because of their numerous health benefits. Superfoods can be beneficial to prevent a wide variety of conditions including heart disease.
1. Leafy green vegetables: Some studies have found a direct link between increasing the intake of green leafy vegetables and a lower risk of heart disease to an extent of 16%. Common dark leafy greens found at the grocery store are kale, broccoli, spinach, mustard, and salad greens.
Green leafy vegetables are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. In particular, they are rich in Vitamin K, which promotes proper blood clotting and protects your arteries. They also contain folate—a very important vitamin B that prevents heart disease. These vegetables are also rich in dietary nitrates which are shown to decrease blood pressure, protect blood vessels, and decrease arterial stiffness.
Leafy greens can be sautéed, stir-fried, roasted, and added to salads to make a delicious meal easily.
2. Berries: Researchers recommend eating berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries three times a week to reduce several risk factors for heart disease. Berries are rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins that protect against inflammation and age-induced oxidative stress and prevent cardiovascular disorders.
An analysis of 22 studies has shown that the consumption of berries is associated with a reduction of bad LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and body mass index. Berries are jam-packed with nutrients that can play a central role in maintaining the health of your heart.
3. Beans: Beans are a rich source of protein and fiber and have almost no saturated fats that increase cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Fiber not only helps in digestion but also prevents heart disease. Beans are a good substitute to animal proteins, which though contain high quantities of protein and iron, tend to contain saturated fat.
Beans contain resistant starch which is shown to improve heart health by reducing levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. In addition, the inclusion of beans to the diet has shown a reduction in inflammation and blood pressure, both of which are major contributors to heart disease.
4. Whole grains: Whole grains such as oats, whole wheat, brown rice, rye, barley, and quinoa are grains that include all three nutrient-rich parts of the grain—bran, endosperm, and germ. Whole grains like oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan. Fibers are known to reduce bad LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Eating whole grains is also shown to reduce systolic blood pressure.
Multiple studies have found a link between including whole grains in your diet and improved heart health. An analysis of 45 studies concluded that eating three more servings of whole grains daily was associated with a 22% reduction in the risk of heart disease.
5. Foods with good fats: fatty fish, seeds, and nuts: Fats like omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and polyunsaturated fats can reduce cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disorders. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nutritionists at the American Heart Association recommend eating at least two portions of fatty fish a week. Omega-3 fatty acid is a nutrient that can lower blood pressure, lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, decrease the risk of abnormal heart rhythms or arrythmia, reduce plaque from arteries to prevent coronary artery disease, reduce the probability of a < href="https://www.sagarhospitals.in/healthlibrary/heart-attack-every-second-counts/" target="_blank">heart attack, and improve arterial function.
Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats. They are also excellent plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid.
6. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a natural plant pigment with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help neutralise harmful free radicals, preventing inflammation and oxidative damage that can cause heart disease. Lycopene has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Tomatoes are also rich in nutrients such as folate, vitamin C, potassium, and choline, all of which promote heart health. Scientists have argued that increasing potassium intake while reducing sodium intake is the most important dietary change while trying to prevent cardiac disease.
Healthy eating can not only improve your overall health, but certain foods can significantly improve the health of your heart and help keep heart disorders at bay. However, eating superfoods alone is no guarantee of good heart health. You must eat a balanced diet with the right portions of fiber, vitamins, protein, and fat to main a healthy body weight. For more information regarding your heart health and risks of cardiac disorders, book an appointment with our specialists at the Sagar Heart and Vascular Institute.