Looking after your heart is important. Although the death rate has fallen in recent years thanks to healthier diets and more exercise, heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States.
However, there are ways to minimize the risk of heart disease, including consuming foods that are high in omega-3 and other preventative nutrients. So, if you want to improve the health and normal functions of your heart, you should be sure to add these 10 foods to your diet.
The majority of Americans don't get enough omega-3 in their diet, so you should up your intake of fish if you want to buck the trend. Examples of the healthiest fish include trout, tuna, mackerel, and herring – all of which are high in omega-3's fatty acids, known to lower your triglyceride levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Not all chocolate was created equal – and dark chocolate is the finest example of that. If you choose a high-quality dark chocolate, which has at least a 70 percent cocoa content, you can improve the natural functioning of your heart. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which are known to lower your blood pressure, make blood platelets less sticky, and improve the flow of blood to your brain and your heart.
They're healthy and delicious. What better a combination could you get? Although all berries are good for you, blackberries and blueberries provide the most nutritional value, as they’re packed with anti-inflammatories that can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer.
Black beans and kidney beans are other healthy foods to add to your diet. Not only are these beans a great way to bulk up salads and other dishes, but they're high in fiber, minerals, and B-vitamins, meaning that they can contribute to a healthy heart.
Start your day off right with a healthy bowl of oatmeal. This traditional breakfast dish is filled with fatty acids from omega-3, as well as potassium and folate, and is known to lower cholesterol levels and keep your arteries clear. If you want to make sure you're getting as much benefit as possible from your morning meal, choose an organic oatmeal and prepare it from scratch – instant varieties won't include as many nutrients.
You may think that oil is bad for the heart, but a healthy amount of olive oil can be good for you. As this natural oil is full of monounsaturated fat, you can lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol when you add a splash or two to your salad and cut your chances of heart disease. Research shows that men from Crete had a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease than those from other countries because their diets contained more olive oil.
Flaxseed is a true superfood. It's filled with fiber, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids, and can contribute to a healthy heart. If you don't know how to consume the seed, then you should consider sprinkling a pinch on top of your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. You can also grind flaxseed and add it to smoothies, salads and other foods to get a nutritional boost without munching.
Spinach is another superfood, packed with lutein, folate, potassium, and fiber, all of which are known to contribute to a healthy heart. Plus, with the Physicians' Health Study finding that those who munch on two or more vegetables a day cut their heart disease risk by more than 25%, it makes sense to increase your intake and keep your body healthy.
Known to lower cholesterol levels, soy is a great addition to any healthy meal. Furthermore, because it’s low in saturated fat, it can be used as a source of protein to keep your energy levels up. One of the best ways to add more soy to your diet is using soy milk in cereal or oatmeal, or by eating foods that are naturally rich in soy like tofu, edamame, miso, tempeh or soy sauce.
Forget what you know about potatoes being "bad," "starchy" and "evil" – they're an important part of many American's diets, and they can be good for your heart, too. Potatoes are rich in potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure, and they're also a source of fiber. Just be sure to avoid frying your potatoes, or you could fill your body with saturated fats, which are known to cause heart disease and other health complications.
There you have it – 10 foods that you can add to your diet to reduce the risks associated with heart disease. Remember that these foods are only the starting point – you still need to adopt a healthy diet and exercise on a regular basis if you want to avoid heart disease completely. Good luck!