Best Foods For Your Heart (PLUS recipes)

best-foods-for-heart

We hear the buzz word “heart-healthy” often. It is often plastered on food packages to ensure us that we are making the right choice by purchasing the product. I have seen these magic words on a huge variety of products, from cereals to fruit candy.

But what are TRULY the best foods for your heart? Here you can see the 9 best foods for your heart and the reasons why these foods are coined as the “heart-healthy” foods.

Below, I have compiled 5 recipes worth checking out for each of the heart-healthy ingredient shown. Enjoy!

Oranges

The Vitamin C present in oranges is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in forming collagen, which is a key component in the structure of the arteries. Oranges are also beneficial in increasing bone strength due to presence of magnesium. They also help decrease the levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, reducing the risk of developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke. Oranges also have plenty of antioxidants, which counter the free radicals that cause aging.

Red Wine

Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces “bad” cholesterol and prevents blood clots.

Lentils

Lentils help to reduce blood cholesterol since it contains high levels of soluble fiber. Lentils are also a great source of folate and magnesium, which are big contributors to heart health. Folate lowers your homocysteine levels, a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium improves blood flow, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

green lentil curry

Kale

Kale is a mine of heart-healthy antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin E. It’s also rich in lutein, which is correlated with protection against early atherosclerosis (A disease of the arteries characterized by the deposition of plaques of fatty material on their inner walls.). Kale even contains an unusual compound, glucoraphanin, that activates a special protective protein called Nrf2 which creates a sort of Teflon coating in your arteries to keep plaque from adhering.

Baked Mushroom with Kale

Dark Chocolate

Like tea, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are compounds that act as antioxidants and protect cells from free radicals. Flavonoids can also lower blood pressure and reduce LDL cholesterol. Several studies have shown that dark chocolate may help keep arteries elastic and blood free-flowing by improving the function of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. In addition to these heart-healthy benefits, dark chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that bring on feelings of pleasure. It also contains the chemical serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant.

Almonds

Almonds are a premier source of Vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that may play a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases. The plant sterols in almonds reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, while the unsaturated oils encourage the liver to make less LDL and more “good” HDL. A certain study found major declines in fatal arrhythmias (an abnormal rate of muscle contractions in the hear) with 2 servings of nuts a week.

Garlic

Garlic has been found to lower levels of LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. It may also help to dissolve clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Even when cooked, garlic helps keep cholesterol in your bloodstream from oxidizing and damaging the lining of your blood vessels, which helps prevent the formation of plaque.

Lemon Garlic Hummus (146)

Sardines

A can of sardines, which is equal to about 3.75 ounces, contains 10.53 grams of fat, but only 1.4 grams are saturated. The rest of the fat in a can of sardines is healthy unsaturated fat, which can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. The omega-3 fatty acids in sardines reduce inflammation. Sardines are also a great source of calcium and iron, as well as magnesium, potassium and zinc. A can of sardines supplies a healthy dose of vitamin B12, which helps you produce red blood cells. You also get small amounts of niacin for healthy skin, and vitamin A for the normal function of your eyes.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates contain paraoxonase—a naturally occurring enzyme in the body that helps keep LDL (bad cholesterol) from accumulating in arteries. Studies have shown that both pomegranate seed oil and pomegranate fruit extract have anti-inflammatory effects that stop the destruction of joints caused by osteoarthritis. Packed with potent antioxidants (including powerful ellagic acid), pomegranates help limit the damage of UV rays. They also defend against free radicals and increase collagen production.

Kammie wants to know:

  • Which of these heart-healthy foods is your favorite?
  • Which of these heart-healthy foods do you wish you ate more often?

Let me know in the comments below!

Sources: Prevention, Southern Living, Reader’s Digest,  SF Gate, How Stuff Works, Mayo Clinic, Mind Body Green, ZipHeal 

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xo Kammie

Comments

    • Kammie says

      You’re welcome dear! :) I was going to let you know about it but looks like you found it before I got the chance to! Hope you have a great rest of your week! Almost Friday! Wee :)

  1. says

    What a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing why these foods are so heart healthy and for such a great list of recipes to try! Kale and garlic are definitely my favorites, but I’m loving that dark chocolate and red wine are on the list!

  2. says

    I’m a huge fan of almonds and dark chocolate (ESPECIALLY dark chocolate!), and though I knew they were generally considered to be relatively good for you foods, I didn’t know all the specifics of why, so thanks for the info. Double thanks for the recipes — so many of them sound fantastic!

  3. says

    I’d have to say that my favorite on this list is probably garlic. I do eat the other foods (except sardines) but not as often as I should. I’ll put garlic in just about anything.

    I wish I ate more pomegranates. Just because they are so incredibly good and I’m a little bit of a fruit freak.

  4. says

    Hi Kammie,

    Thank you very much for including my Thai Chicken, Kale & Mango Salad in your post. Very nice of you and thoughtful to send a FB message. Smart networking.;)
    Great post! Will share it on my FB page. Love all the foods you have mentioned.

  5. says

    Definitely pinning this post, Kammie. I belong to a farm program over the summer and we get fresh veggies every week. I can’t find any kale recipe that we like, but your pesto one sounds delish. Can’t wait to try it!

  6. says

    Hmm, I never thought about sardines being heart healthy but I mean they ARE fish so yeah, it totally makes since! I’ve never actually tried one before though…I know they’re pretty salty and since I’m a bit sensitive to salt, I’m not so sure I would like them…maybe I’ll break down and order them on a pizza one day!

    Love the round up of recipes! And you reminded me that I still need to make your microwave cake!

    • Kammie says

      YESSS make the microwave cake! Do it, do it, do it! :)
      Anyway, yes sardines are pretty darn high in sodium so they are not frequent on my menu either but I used to like them a lot back in the day, especially the ones in tomato sauce. I got them a couple of months ago from TJ’s and they looked literally like fish – head and eyes and all. It grossed me out and I threw it out. Haha