Dr Siddhant Bhargava suggests 10 superfoods to lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, cholesterol levels, and keep triglycerides in check.
A healthy heart is a sign of good health and overall well-being.
The secret to a well functioning heart lies in following a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Superfoods for the heart can ensure that our diet is nutritious and well-balanced while ensuring that our blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides remain in check.
Here are 10 such heart-healthy foods to help you stay in good shape and keep heart ailments at bay.
Fruits can be the heart's best friend. They are loaded with nutrients that can help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in control.
Since it also helps in losing weight, including fruits in our diet ensures that it brings goodness to your overall health.
Apples add fibre to the plate along with flavonoids which are antioxidant compounds known to protect the heart by reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol and inflammation.
Similarly, bananas will provide you vitamins B6 and C with a dose of fibre, potassium, and magnesium which will together keep your blood pressure in check.
Even oranges are a boon to heart health with flavonoids displaying strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers.
Energy: 58 calories in 100 grams of fruit.
2. Whole grains
Consuming whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent.
Whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa, and many others can offer protection to the heart by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Whole-grain fibre has unique benefits over other foods for heart health.
Fibre from whole-grain foods like dark bread, oatmeal, and bran can lower heart disease risk and inflammation leading to great health benefits.
Whole grains contain beta-glucan, a soluble fibre known for its anti-hypercholesterolemic properties that help control cholesterol levels.
Other nutrients one can derive from whole grains include minerals, proteins, vitamin B, and healthy fat.
Energy: 340 calories in 100 grams of whole wheat.
Unhealthy fat deposits inside and around the heart, if left unchecked, can lead to inflammation further damaging the blood vessels and lead to heart disease and strokes.
Among the key recommendations that the American Heart Association made a long time ago was asking people to eat fish rich in unsaturated fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids or unsaturated fats have immense heart health benefits.
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, anchovies, mackerel, black cod, and striped bass are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Energy: 84 calories in 100 grams of fish.
Nuts like walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans are known to be heart-friendly.
They can reduce low-density lipoprotein also known as bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body.
Both are known to act on the build-up of plaques in the arteries.
Plaques are deposits that could lead to atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries.
This occurs when fat and cholesterol get deposited in the arteries. Eating nuts regularly are known to keep this in check.
Nuts are packed with protein and contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that lower bad cholesterol levels.
They also have omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamin E which helps stop plaque formation in the arteries, and L-arginine which prevents blood clots in the arteries.
Energy: 617 calories in 100 grams of mixed nuts.
Tofu lowers the risk of heart disease to a great extent as it contains zero cholesterol.
Daily consumption of soy in tofu is likely to decrease markers for cardiovascular disease risk, including weight, body mass index, and total cholesterol.
Tofu contains compounds called isoflavones that make it a heart favourite.
Made of soybean curd, tofu is naturally gluten-free, low in calories, and provides the body with the benefits of iron and calcium.
Soy isoflavones have been found to reduce levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body.
Energy: 144 calories in 100 gm of tofu.
6. Oatmeal and barley
Having oats as a meal is a great way to support a healthy heart due to its soluble and insoluble fibre content.
Among the healthiest grains on earth, oats and oatmeal offer many health benefits.
Whole grain oats, oat bran, and barley are known to help lower blood cholesterol. They contain a soluble fibre known as beta-glucan largely unique to oats, which gets low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol out of the blood.
Oats are gluten-free whole grains and are known to be a great source of important vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and are also filled with antioxidants.
The major health benefits of oatmeal include body weight loss, balanced blood sugar maintenance, and a reduction of heart problems.
The addition of barley to our diet lowers the risk of heart disease and brings down 'bad' LDL cholesterol levels.
Consuming barley ensures that the soluble fiber helps keep blood pressure levels down and in check.
Energy: 389 oats/354 calories in 100 gm of oats/barley.
The presence of alpha-linolenic acid, found in flaxseed, holds benefits for people with heart disease.
Individuals suffering from lower high blood pressure could maintain it through the consumption of flaxseed as mentioned in various initial researches. Therefore, it also helps in reducing the risk of heart problems.
Having flaxseed ensures that it lowers blood pressure, helps in regulating blood cholesterol, and in increasing levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
It is one of the richest sources of plant-based fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which form part of a powerful dietary strategy to combat coronary artery disease.
Ingesting flaxseed is known to provide ALA to the circulation and tissues of the body.
ALA levels are inversely correlated with primary cardiovascular events and thus beneficial to heart health.
Energy: 534 calories in 100 gm of flaxseed.
Dark leafy greens and black beans are not just tasty, but also extremely healthy on the plate. Dark leafy greens should be encouraged as they are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
They contain folate, an important B vitamin that can be helpful in the prevention of heart disease.
Greens like spinach, kale, parsley, and broccoli should be regularly consumed for their good health benefits.
All these include Vitamin K which is found in abundance and helps in contributing to a healthy heart.
Green vegetables help in reducing LDL levels and prevent bad cholesterol from binding to the arterial walls.
Besides, green leafy vegetables, black beans are also considered good for heart health.
Packed with nutrition for the heart, beans contain folate, antioxidants, and magnesium that can help lower blood pressure as the fiber in it controls cholesterol and blood sugar.
Energy: 45/341 calories for 100 gm of green leafy vegetables or black beans.
The next time you are stocking up your kitchen just make sure to get some strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other such berries.
They are quite a favourite for heart health thanks to the anthocyanins present in them.
These coloured water-soluble pigments belong to the phenolic group and are present in all the tasty berries helping them protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, keep cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels in check, and normalise blood pressure.
The increased consumption of anthocyanins is known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eating berries regularly can reduce cellular damage and bring down the risk of heart disease significantly.
Energy: 32 calories in 100 gm of strawberries.
10. Dark chocolate
High in flavonoids, dark chocolate is any day a good heart-healthy food.
A group of flavonoids called flavanols are present in most dark chocolates and help in lowering high blood pressure among adults.
What happens is that flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate the endothelium or the lining of arteries to produce nitric oxide.
The good part of nitric oxide is that it ensures the relaxation of the arteries, which in turn lowers the resistance to blood flow.
This reduces blood pressure keeping the heart happy.
Dark chocolates with 70% cacao or higher are good for your heart, but you may have to be careful with the quantity and calories of consumption.
They are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and boasts of a great fatty acid profile.
The fats in cocoa and dark chocolate are mostly oleic acids, which is a heart-healthy fat also found in olive oil.
Energy: 505 calories in 100 gm of dark chocolate.
Dr Siddhant Bhargava, a fitness and nutritional scientist, is co-founder, Food Darzee (external link).
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