You’ve probably heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, as it turns out, that old saying has some truth to it! The antioxidants in apples help to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Studies have also connected apples with lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
What about other foods that are good for heart health? In celebration of National Heart Health Month, we are highlighting foods that are surprisingly good for your heart!
If you’ve spent any time on a grade-school playground, you’ve heard the song about how beans are good for your heart… among other things. Another infamous rhyme that is grounded in fact! Beans are a great source of protein, fiber, and potassium. Research has shown that adding 1⁄2 cup of cooked beans to your daily diet can encourage a reduction in LDL cholesterol. Beans also serve to maintain healthy blood pressure because their anti-inflammatory properties help keep blood vessels open.
Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation in the body is dangerous and can lead to a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Cinnamon helps to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, while keeping HDL cholesterol levels stable. Reductions in high blood pressure have also been attributed to cinnamon. These two benefits combine to decrease risk for heart disease and stroke.
Fermented foods have been growing in popularity in the United States lately, and for good reason. Kimchi and sauerkraut are two of the most well-known fermented foods. Other foods like yogurt, kombucha (a fermented sweet tea), kefir (a fermented milk beverage), and tempeh (fermented soybeans) are also popular. Fermented foods contain healthy bacteria that aid the body in several ways, from digestion to regulating cholesterol. Yogurt has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, and kimchi to reduce risk of diabetes complications and obesity. Check out these 10 foods you can ferment yourself at home!
The antioxidants found in green tea help prevent against free radical damage to the body’s cells. This lowers risk for a host of diseases from heart disease to cancer. Tea also boosts cell health, bone density, and helps deter aging. Drinking tea is also linked to a reduced risk of stroke due to high cholesterol. Studies have found that individuals who drink 12 ounces or more of tea every day are half as likely to suffer a heart attack as individuals who do not drink tea.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats and are also high in fiber. Avocados have been shown to reduce risk of hypertension, stroke, obesity, and other diseases. Consuming foods with high fiber content has also been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, along with lowering and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Try this recipe for delicious, creamy avocado dip.
A handful of nuts is a great heart-healthy snack. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans all contain the vitamins, minerals, and monounsaturated fats that contribute to heart health.
Most of us have heard about the heart-healthy benefits of red wine. When consumed in moderation, red wine raises levels of good cholesterol and lowers risk of heart diseases and stroke. For individuals who do not drink alcohol, grape juice offers many of the same benefits. The flavonoids present in red grapes help fight cardiovascular diseases, and procyanidins help to keep blood vessels healthy.
Everyone loves chocolate. The great news is, if you choose unsweetened cocoa, chocolate loves you back! Health benefits of cocoa include relief from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, constipation, chronic fatigue syndrome and various other illnesses. Cocoa can quicken wound healing, and helps to improve cardiovascular function and brain health. It also possesses mood-enhancing properties and is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Chocolate makes us happy… literally! For you real chocoholics, check out Diabetic Kitchen Gourmet Brownie Mix. (Bonus points for adding heart- healthy pecans or walnuts!)
Who knew eating heart-healthy could be so easy and taste so good?