Health experts say you should eat dark chocolate to prevent heart disease. You can eat your way to a longer life with just a few everyday foods that will keep your heart healthy, experts say. Though exercise is important too, eating these 18 foods is said to help prevent heart disease, as well as boost general health. From pumpkin seeds to green tea, these are the foods and drinks we should try and eat every day.
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1. Green tea
A recent study has shown that drinking green tea rapidly improves the function of the endothelia cells lining the circulatory system. Endothelial dysfunction is what triggers the thickening of artery walls, which could then lead to heart disease.
2. Pumpkin seeds
These seeds are packed with stress-relieving magnesium which is good for heart health as stress levels can have a severe impact on the heart. The seeds also contain plenty of protein and healthy fats to keep those hunger cravings at bay and help with weight loss.
These are rich in vitamins B, especially B5, which is important for adrenal health. Its creamy texture may help reduce cravings as well, and, being rich in monounsaturated fat and protein, it may help to quell your appetite too.
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Omega-3 oils can come from marine, animal and plant sources, but no matter where they come from, they greatly improve heart health. You should try to include omega-3 oils from all of these sources as part of a balanced diet.
The health benefits of dark chocolate is linked to a property in its polyphenols which releases a chemical messenger – nitric oxide. That increases arterial dilatation, while at the same time improving blood flow and reducing platelet aggregation – boosting heart health.
Pomegranates contain numerous antioxidants, including heart-promoting polyphenols and anthocyanins which may help stave off hardening of the arteries. One study of heart disease patients found that a daily dose of pomegranate juice over three months showed improvements in blood flow to the heart.
All berries are healthy, because they’re extremely rich in antioxidants. She explains that these make your blood vessels more flexible, which can help prevent heart disease.
8. Almonds and walnuts
While nearly all nuts are filled with heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, Cohen says that almonds and walnuts will get you more bang for your buck. Additionally, they’re a great source of magnesium, which, as a 2014 Harvard Health Letter points out, can help lower blood pressure. Wait, there’s more! Another study linked eating a handful a day to lower cholesterol. No wonder nuts are considered a superfood.
9. Dark leafy greens
Cohen tells SELF that leafy green vegetables are loaded with B6 vitamins, which are heart-healthy for a couple of reasons. For one, she explains that they’re involved in the process of antioxidant function—antioxidants being a key player in preventing cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all.
Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. “It acts as a sponge in the digestive tract and soaks up the cholesterol so it is eliminated from the body and not absorbed into the bloodstream,” says Lauren Graf, a registered dietician and co-director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
11. Citrus fruits
Women who consume high amounts of the flavonoids found in oranges and grapefruits have a 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke (caused by a clot) than women who don’t get as much of these compounds, a 2012 study found. Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, which has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
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Soy products, including tofu and soy milk, are a good way to add protein to your diet without unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Soy products contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. What’s more, soy may reduce blood pressure in people who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates.
There’s no reason to shun potatoes because they’re white and look like a “bad” starch. As long as they’re not deep fried, potatoes can be good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. And they’re high in fiber, which can lower the risk for heart disease.
Tomato consumption in the U.S. has been rising and that’s a good thing. Like potatoes, tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium. Plus, they’re a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help get rid of “bad” cholesterol, keep blood vessels open, and lower heart attack risk. And because they’re low in calories and low in sugar, they don’t detract from an already-healthy diet.
Because they come from plants, legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of protein without a lot of unhealthy fat. One study found that people who ate legumes at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who consumed them less than once a week.
16. Red wine
Red wine, or small amounts of any type of alcohol, are thought to lower heart disease risk. While some say a polyphenol found in red wine, resveratrol, gives that beverage an added benefit, research suggests that any type of alcohol in moderation works.
17. Broccoli, spinach and kale
When it comes to your health, you really can’t go wrong with vegetables. But green vegetables may give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fiber and contain tons of vitamins and minerals. Kale also has some omega-3 fatty acids. “Green vegetables are super health-promoting foods,” says Graf.
Another widely consumed beverage—coffee—may also promote heart health. One study found a 10 to 15% lower risk of dying from heart disease or other causes in men and women who drank six or more cups of coffee a day.
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