A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. It’s not as hard as you may think! Diet and nutrition have been extensively investigated as risk factors for major cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke. They are also linked to other cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Adequate evidence is available from studies conducted within and across populations to link several nutrients, minerals, food groups, and dietary patterns with an increased or decreased risk of Cardiovascular Diseases.
The Food that Your Heart Would Love
The right number of calories to eat each day is based on your age and physical activity level and whether you’re trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight. You could use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you probably wouldn’t get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Limit foods and drinks high in calories but low in nutrients. Also, limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium you eat.
A heart-healthy diet consists of:
- Leafy green vegetables– These are high in vitamin K and nitrates and can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function. Studies show that a higher intake of leafy greens is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- Salmon– Salmon is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias), lower triglyceride levels, slow the growth of plaque in your arteries, and slightly lower blood pressure.
- Flaxseed (ground)– Ground flaxseed also has omega-3’s, along with both soluble and insoluble fiber. It has one of the highest available sources of lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.
- Oatmeal– Oatmeal is another good source of those omega-3 fatty acids
- Black or Kidney Beans– Beans have lots of soluble fiber, B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and, you guessed it, omega-3 fatty acids.
- Almonds– Almonds are high in fiber and monounsaturated fats and have been linked to reductions in cholesterol and belly fat.
- Walnuts– walnuts help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure, two of the significant risk factors for heart disease.
- Red Wine– Red wine contains types of flavonoids called catechins, as well as the antioxidant resveratrol. Flavonoids can help maintain the health of your blood vessels and may help prevent blood clots. Resveratrol has been shown in the lab to have heart-protecting benefits.
- Tuna– Tuna is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Tofu– Tofu is an excellent source of protein. It’s vegetarian. And it’s full of heart-healthy nutrients including, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Brown rice– It provides B-complex vitamins, magnesium, and fiber.
- Dark Chocolate– Dark chocolates are high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- Cantaloupe– Cantaloupe is a summertime favorite containing heart-healthy nutrients such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids), B-complex and C vitamins, folate, potassium, and fiber.
- Tomatoes– Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol.
- Garlic– Garlic is effective in reducing LDL levels and total cholesterol levels as well.
- Green tea– Green tea has been proven to improve blood flow and lower cholesterol levels.
The daily diet proportion for a healthy heart
Fats: You should limit Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs) like dairy products, red meat, chicken, etc., to less than 7% of daily energy intake. You are also advised to lower the consumption of t-FAs (hydrogenated oils and fats) to less than 1% of the daily energy intake for the functioning of a healthy heart. It is also vital to make sure that you should restrict dietary cholesterol consumption to less than 300 mg/d, mainly through the restriction of dairy fats.
Fruits and Vegetables: Daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (including berries, green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, and legumes) in an adequate quantity (400–500 g/d) can reduce the risk of CHD, stroke, and HBP.
Sodium: Current evidence suggests that an intake of 70 mmol or 1.7 g of sodium per day (equivalent to a daily sodium chloride intake of 4 g/d) is beneficial in reducing blood pressure and is not associated with adverse effects.
Potassium: Dietary intake of potassium lowers blood pressure and is protective against stroke and cardiac arrhythmias. Potassium intake should be at a level that will keep the sodium: potassium ratio close to 1, at daily potassium intake levels of 70–80 mmol/d.
Non-starch polysaccharides (commonly referred to as fiber): Fibre is protective against CHD and has also been used in blood pressure lowering diets. Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals are rich in fiber, and their adequate consumption can help maintain your blood pressure.
Fish: Regular consumption of fish every week is protective against CHD and ischemic stroke. The consumption of fish and other marine foods should provide over 200 mg/d of DHA and EPA. The EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids responsible for overall wellness and optimal functioning of the heart and body.
Alcohol: While regular low to moderate consumption of alcohol is protective against Coronary Heart Disease, concerns about other cardiovascular and health risks associated with alcohol consumption (including stroke, hypertension, and some cancers) do not favour a general recommendation for its use.
A healthy diet isn’t just about cutting out or adding food to the regular diet. It is more directed towards the comprehensive idea of having a proper check on all body requirements. As for people with heart ailments and risk factors, a proper diet is a life savior for them. On the whole, you can say that following a healthy diet is more than a necessity. It’s more like an utmost duty that we are all obliged to do for our body.