Nutrition is usually one of the forgotten components of a holistic training regimen. It’s well known that eating more nutrient-dense food is better for our total-body health and can lead to performance improvements in the pool.
“You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day,” says Julie Zumpano, RD, LD, a dietitian in the Preventive Cardiology and Nutrition Program at Cleveland Clinic. “There is a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart.”
10 Essential Foods For A Healthy Heart
Many foods can help keep your heart at its best. Some help lower your blood pressure. Others keep your cholesterol in line. Below are 10 superfoods Health.com, WebMD, and the Cleveland Clinic recommend incorporating into our meals. We hope this gives you some good ideas about how to add heart-healthy foods to your meals. Check it out!
#1 – Salmon
To benefit from omega-3 fatty acids found in this fish. “Omega-3s have an anti-clotting effect, so they keep your blood flowing,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. They also help lower your triglycerides (a type of fat that can lead to heart disease). The American Heart Association recommends eating it twice a week. A serving is 3.5 ounces. That’s a little bit bigger than a computer mouse.
#2 – Blueberries/Raspberries
The antioxidants found in blueberries can lower blood pressure. These berries are loaded with polyphenols – antioxidants that mop up damage-causing free radicals in your body. They also deliver fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to a lower risk of stroke.
#3 – Oatmeal
The soluble fiber in oatmeal has been linked to lowering cholesterol. Oats have a type of fiber (called beta-glucan) that lowers your LDL cholesterol. One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal or a little over a cup of cooked barley gives you the amount of beta-glucan you need daily to help lower your cholesterol. You can also find beta-glucan in barley, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweed.
#4 – Tomatoes
Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, can keep blood vessels open, and lower heart attack risks. Enjoy them in many different ways, like this baked version with quinoa and corn.
#5 – Avocado
These fruits get their creamy texture from “good” (monounsaturated) fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol.
“They also seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, so you don’t get chronic inflammation that makes atherosclerosis — the hardening of artery walls — worse,” Johnson says.
Use mashed avocado as a spread in place of butter, or add cubes of it to salad, or over black bean chili. As delicious as they are, avocados are high in calories, so keep your portions modest.
#6 – Chickpeas
bowl of chickpea
Chickpeas and other legumes (lentils, other kinds of beans) are a top-notch source of soluble fiber — the kind of fiber that can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. If you buy canned beans, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties (sodium can raise your blood pressure). Rinse them in water to wash off any added salt.
#7 – Super Greens
Everyone knows vegetables are good for you, but these greens in particular are packed with fiber, as well as antioxidants. Crisp, fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus are a terrific heart-healthy snack with a whopping list of nutrients, including vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiber.
#8 – Pomegranates
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. Ultimately, though, it’s important to have variety in your diet.
#9 – Green Tea
Long a favorite in Asia, green tea has grown more popular in the West and may bring with it significant health benefits. One recent study found that people who drank four or more cups of green tea daily had a 20% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared with people who “seldom” imbibed the beverage. The findings echo a previous study that found lower rates of death, including death from heart disease, among avid drinkers of green tea. Antioxidants known as catechins may be responsible for the effect.
#10 – Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
In a landmark study, people at high risk for heart disease who followed the Mediterranean diet (high in grains, fruits, vegetables) supplemented by nuts and at least four tablespoons a day of olive oil reduced their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dying by 30%. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Olives themselves—both green and black—are another source of “good” fat, says Graf. And they “add a lot of flavor to salads,” she notes.