Heart disease can encompass many conditions, but in this post, I will be discussing the kind of condition most people think of when they hear the term: coronary artery disease. In case you didn’t know, coronary artery disease can lead to blockages in the arteries, which in turn increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. This disease is largely an issue of lifestyle, and is very rare in areas where processed foods are non-existent. Researchers believe that a good diet can cut the risk of heart disease by up to 70 percent—compare that to the 25 to 30 percent risk reduction offered by statin drugs, which are considered the most effective medication for heart disease prevention. If you are interested in consuming a more heart-healthy diet, here are some specific foods that may make a good addition to your kitchen.
Oranges appear to help the heart on numerous fronts; it is rich in a type of soluble fiber called pectin, which essentially helps the body absorb excess cholesterol like a sponge, preventing it from getting into the bloodstream. They are also rich in potassium, a substance that is vital to heart health in various ways, namely, keeping blood pressure in check. As for another heart issue that may concern you, the pectin in oranges may also help reduce the risk of congestive heart failure by inhibiting the actions of a protein that can lead to scarring of the heart tissue.
Research from Japan has shown that high consumption of yogurt is associated with significantly healthier gums—what does this have to do with heart health you may ask? Well, gum disease has been identified as a risk factor for developing heart disease—in fact, people with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems. First, it can lead to body-wide inflammation that can damage the heart. Secondly, the bacteria in the mouth can break away and move into the blood stream, where it can wreak all sorts of havoc. Yogurt is rich in substances that help the body fight off harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Beans are another great addition to a heart-healthy diet; research has found that as little as ½ a cup a day may help lower cholesterol. Beans are super high in soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol and ushers it out of the body. This type of food may offer other indirect benefits to your heart health as well—they are a great source of protein, and swapping out meat a bit more frequently for beans and legumes, can help you meet your protein needs while cutting out a lot of fat and cholesterol. There are tons of tasty recipes with beans as the centerpiece, such as a Tuscan white bean dip with rosemary; pair this with some whole grain bread or crackers and you have a delicious, heart-healthy meal.
Nuts can get a bad rap sometimes because of their high fat content, and while this should be a consideration in how many you consume, they are rich in the type of fat that is good for your body, especially the heart; one example of the beneficial role of these fats is that they encourage the liver to make more ‘’good’’ cholesterol and less ‘’bad’’ cholesterol. They also are a great source of fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Studies suggest that people who eat nuts at least two to four times per week have a reduced incidence of heart disease. Nuts also contain a substance called sterols, which reduce cholesterol absorption.
The saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away may have some truth to it. Large-scale studies that have involved tens of thousands of people total found a strong correlation between regular consumption of apples and reduced risk of heart disease; like oranges, they are rich in pectins. Apples also contain a host of substances that have been found to improve heart health by preventing the oxidation of ‘’bad’’ cholesterol and its buildup in the arteries.
About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about nutrition and healthy cooking; if you are interested in some heart-healthy meals, check out Hamilton Beach recipes for some great ideas.