Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women and men in the United States. We all know a healthy diet can help reduce your risk, especially when coupled with regular exercise and maintaining a reasonable weight. But what really are the best foods to include on your weekly menu to keep your heart healthy and strong?
“When it comes to prevention, increasing total dietary fiber and unsaturated fats is the way to go,” according to Linda Van Horn, PhD, registered dietitian (RD), member of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee, and professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern Medical School in Chicago.
Eating unsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil, can help to reduce triglycerides, which inhibit blood from clotting and our arteries from becoming clogged with plaque. And a diet rich in soluble fiber, which is often found in legumes and some fruits and vegetables, helps to lower your LDL cholesterol. Here are 10 foods that are rich in heart-healthy nutrients.
You can help prevent a heart attack and lower your cholesterol naturally by eating foods that lower cholesterol. These should be used as part of a bigger picture plan to lower your cholesterol naturally with the guidance of your doctor or healthcare professional.
Here the list of Foods That Lower Cholesterol & Prevent Heart Attacks
Like many legumes, kidney beans are a low-fat, high-soluble fiber protein source. These vitamin-rich beans also have a low glycemic index and are cholesterol-free. Add them to salads and chili, as they truly are almost a perfect health food. Both the canned and dried beans are equally high in fiber, but canned varieties are likely to have a higher salt content, so stick with dried varieties for maximum heart benefits.
Recommended serving size: Kidney beans, dry, 1/4 cup: 133 calories Kidney beans, canned, heaping 1/3 cup, drained: 100 calories Chickpeas, dry, 1/4 cup: 160 calories Chickpeas, canned, heaping 1/3 cup, drained: 160 calories.
Oatmeal gets the seal of approval from the American Heart Association for its cholesterol-lowering properties. The fiber in oatmeal has been described as acting like a sponge, helping to soak up excess cholesterol and carry it out of the body before it can do damage to arteries (1).
Choosing organic oats will help you reduce the amount of GMOs and chemicals you’re ingesting when you eat your oatmeal. Opt for plain instead of flavored oatmeal so you know you’re getting just the oats and no added sugars or artificial flavors and colors. This means avoiding some of the bigger brand names and going with some of the smaller sized companies that have a passion for providing organic, pure products.
Whole-grain barley is rich in soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, which is good for combating constipation. A decent protein source, barley also contains a good supply of iron and minerals. Beware when choosing which barley to buy. So-called “pearl barely” lacks the outer husk, and thus, most of the nutrients are removed. Look for whole-grain barley cereals, or substitute whole-grain barley for rice and pasta side dishes once a week.
Recommended serving size: Dry, 1/4 cup: 151 calories
Garlic has long been known as a cholesterol-lowering food, and it’s as simple as adding more garlic to your cooking. The allicin in garlic is what does the trick, and there’s some debate over which form of garlic contains the most allicin, fresh raw garlic, cooked garlic, garlic powder, or a garlic supplement. This is one food that likely won’t lower your cholesterol much all by itself, but can be effective when paired with other foods on this list on a cholesterol conscious diet.
If bumping up your garlic intake doesn’t sound appealing to you, either because of the taste or the bad breath it’s known to cause, you may be interested in taking a garlic supplement for similar benefits.
Women who are looking for an easy way to get omega-3s on the go can grab a small handful of walnuts for an afternoon snack. “Although they are high in fat, most of it is polyunsaturated fat, which is considered a ‘good fat’ and, thus, they are fine to eat in moderation,” says Rachel Brandeis, a registered dietitian in Atlanta, Georgia, and spokesperson for American Dietetic Association. Add some to your green salad, or give chicken salad a nutrition boost by adding ground walnuts.
Recommended serving size: Shelled, scant 1/2 cup: 344 calories.
Avocados are thankfully making a big comeback after being vilified during the low-fat diet boom. The oleic acid they contain has a direct effect on cholesterol levels, and much of the fat in an avocado is made up of oleic acid. This is what helps raise levels of HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol, while lowering total cholesterol numbers.
It’s easy to start eating more avocados, as they can serve as an edible garnish to just about any meal. They also contain fiber, an important factor in keeping the digestive clean, and also helpful in regulating cholesterol levels. There’s also more potassium in an avocado than in a banana, so you’re getting an important mineral that will help you thrive.
Although these little fish tend to have a bad reputation, they are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, along with calcium and niacin. Try them fresh on the grill or use canned sardines packed in oil on salads, in sandwiches, or in sauces.
Recommended serving size: Fresh, 3 whole sardines: 281 calories Canned in oil, 3.5 ounces drained: 220 calories.
Tomatoes receive all of their health headlines thanks to the lycopene they contain. The lycopene they contain is believed to be why tomatoes are consistently linked with heart health. Lowering LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides is why tomatoes end up on many heart-healthy diet programs.
Cooking your tomatoes helps to unlock even more lycopene, but that shouldn’t stop you from eating fresh tomatoes as well. Tomato sauces, chilis, soups, salads, and smoothies are all great items to consider adding tomatoes to. Going with organically grown tomatoes is highly recommended. Cherry tomatoes made the Dirty Dozen list of foods by the Environmental Working Group for their high levels of toxins.
Spinach is one of those healthy foods that just makes everything in the body better, including your cholesterol levels. Start eating more spinach, and all else being equal, you’ll start to see your cholesterol numbers drop. It’s the lutein in spinach that gives it its cholesterol-lowering effect.
Other foods high in lutein include kale, swiss chard, and turnip greens. These leafy greens are also known for their high vitamin and mineral content, making them great choices for a healthy diet, and to aid in weight loss if necessary. If you’re worried about your cholesterol it’s doubly important to keep fit and lose extra weight to reduce the chance of a heart attack and other diseases linked to being overweight.
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