I recently gave a workshop for Macy’s corporate employees entitled “Eat This to Heal That,” in which we discussed some of the greatest super foods for preventing the most prevalent diseases in the US (heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes) as well as everyday ailments such as heart burn, fatigue and stress. Since it’s Heart Health month I thought it would be the perfect time to share some of the heart healthy foods we should all be including in our diet.
Most people associate heart disease with men and therefor don’t realize that heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S. I don’t share this statistic to scare you, just to make you aware so you can focus on prevention, which is the name of the game!
The key to preventing heart disease are eating foods that:
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Reduce Triglycerides
- Raise HDL “good cholesterol”
- Lower LDL “bad cholesterol”
- Prevent clotting/plaque from forming
Top foods for Heart Disease prevention:
Contain potassium and folate, which help to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce instances of heart failures. Be sure to choose the whole fruit rather than the juice since pasteurization zaps most of the heart healthy nutrients.
Contains a special protein that keeps plaque from adhering to the walls of your arteries helping to prevent atherosclerosis. Kale is one of the most versatile kale leafy greens and can be added to soups, sautéed with eggs for breakfast, made into “chips” for a healthy snack or enjoyed raw in a hearty winter salad.
This super spice is known for reducing blood pressure and build-up of plaque in the arteries. Be sure to add in plenty of fresh garlic when cooking. I love adding it to my favorite homemade salad dressing; a simple combination of olive oil, lemon juice and chopped raw garlic!
The Polyphenols found in red wine help keep the blood vessels flexible to prevent clotting. Be sure to limit yourself to one glass per day, otherwise you increase your risk for certain types of cancer. Other foods rich in these heart healthy polyphenols are: green tea, black tea, black currents, and cherries
Flavonols help improve blood vessel flexibility and lower LDL and blood pressure by up to 10%. Here’s the catch, you must buy chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa. Just because the label says “dark chocolate” doesn’t mean a thing – look for a high percentage of cocoa to insure the heart healthy benefits.
These essential fatty acids have been proven to lower triglycerides, raise HDL, and decrease inflammation (which is now being linked to heart disease and every other major illness). The most abundant sources of Omega 3’s are found in salmon, sardines and artic char, but you can find vegan sources in flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Beans and legumes are rich in potassium, which helps to reduce blood pressure. In an international study conducted over 25 years, legumes where associated with an 82% reduction in the risk of death from heart disease. There is no drug on the market can make a claim like that!
Are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps repair cellular damage and prevent heart disease. Almonds also helplower LDL (bad) cholesterol and instances of fatal arrhythmias. Enjoy a handful of raw almonds for a heart healthy snack.
Reduces atherosclerosis by blocking the progression of plaque and actually reverses the build up of plaque. Be sure to add 1 ounce of unsweetened pomegranate juice to your morning smoothie to help prevent heart disease.
Be sure to include plenty of these heart healthy foods in your diet and stay tuned for recipes for preventing heart disease!