Post on: February 27, 2020.

Posted in: Read.

Foods that Make Your Heart Stronger

Everyday, I think about my heart – my family has not had a great history of heart health, probably because they typically didn’t eat foods that make your heart stronger. After decades of researching, the news is uplifting. There are many foods both you and I can eat to make our hearts stronger, that include favourites like berries to chocolate, as well as some potentially new culinary experiences, such as bulgur wheat.


Who Eats the Healthiest: the healthiest heart diet on earth

Since the 1970s, scientists have known that what we eat affects the heart. The Seven Countries Study, for example, noted that lower rates of heart disease on the Greek Isle of Crete was likely because people there ate a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil, nuts and seeds) and polyphenols (nutrients found in plants). Dubbed the “Mediterranean diet”, this way of eating has gained popularity and is not a pop-star among diets. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, beans, nuts and fish. Plus, it includes the occasional glass of red wine. Mmm…red wine! 

The healthiest foods to eat for heart health include whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. (Recipe for this soup is below.)

Following the Mediterranean diet may cut your risk of heart disease in half, according to data from a study releasedat the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Conference in March 2015. The study followed 2500 Greeks, aged 18-89, for 10 years. Each person reported the type of food they were eating. The researchers ranked the participants, assigning each a point value based on how well they followed the Mediterranean diet. Those who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who did not. The researchers also noted that for each “point” higher a person’s diet ranked on the scoring system a person’s risk of heart disease was reduced by 3 percent. In other words, even small changes in your diet could make a difference in the health of your heart.


How to make your diet more heart friendly

There are many simple healthier choices we can make that can help transform our Western diet into one more closely resembling a Mediterranean one: 


Those who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 47% less likely to die from heart disease than those who did not. 


6 Signs of Heart Disease

*National Institute of Aging


What is a good heart diet?

The healthiest old hearts in the world belong to Okinawa centenarians. Their low calorie diets that focus on plant-based proteins and vegetables offer their bodies nutrients to heal and support the heart. Taking a look around the world, there are other populations with low rates of heart disease that may be attributed to their diet. The Kuna people of San Blas Island off of Panama eat a lot of chocolate. They have an astonishing lower rate of heart disease. In fact, the rate of heart disease among the Kuna people is 9 times lower than their neighbors in Panama. Mmm…another reason to eat chocolate. That’s a real arm-twister, isn’t it?  

Can you eat fat in a heart healthy diet?

When scientists realized that the Inuit have surprisingly low rates of heart disease, they were curious. Inuit’s eat a diet that is rich in seal blubber, which is a high fat food. Previous evidence had taught us that fat was bad for the heart. Astonished by it all, researchers soon discovered that seal blubber contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have a remarkable ability to regulate inflammation and promote heart health. It didn’t take long before omega-3s earned a place of honor in a heart healthy diet. Quickly, research began into these fascinating fats. Omega-3s are thought to regulate genes, change how cell membranes function, improve how channels in cell membranes work, interrupt messengers that promote inflammation and more. 

Are omega-3s good for your heart?

Today, many studies exist on the health benefits of omega-3s. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, evidence suggests consuming omega-3s lowers resting heart rate, blood pressure and bad fat levels in the blood. Omega-3s also improve how efficient the heart works, reduces inflammation and improves how well blood vessels function. In conclusion, the authors of the cardiology paper note that there is strong evidence that omega-3s reduce the risk of cardiac death. They recommend that the general population should consume at least 250mg of EPA+DHA daily, or 2 servings of oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, anchovies) per week. According to science, you could wash down your dinner of fish with a glass of red wine. Known as the French Paradox, the consumption of red wine has been linked to low rates of heart disease among the French, despite their love of butter and cheese. Cheers!


Ah-Ha! MOMENT

People who eat diets rich in plant oils, vegetables, fish, chocolate and red wine appear to have some of the healthiest hearts!


11 Best Foods for Heart Health

These anti-aging foods are also good for the heart: 


Summer Gazpacho Recipe

The easiest way to eat more whole foods, particularly vegetables, is in soup form. This cold soup is a fantastic source of many of the best foods for heart health – and, it can be made in as little as 10 minutes! With no need to warm it up, gazpacho is awesome to take for lunch.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Combine jalapeño, oil, garlic and onions into the food processor and blend well. Add remainder of the ingredients into the food processor and blend until desired consistency. Chill for about 20 minutes before serving. Serve drizzled with olive oil and a sprig of basil.


What are whole grains?

Whole grains are the seed part of a grass that’s either in it’s complete form or has been milled so it retains all of its seed parts (bran, germ and endosperm). Refined grains lack these components, and thus whole grains are better sources of fiber and nutrients (B vitamins, folate, iron, selenium, magnesium and potassium). Examples of whole grains can be whole foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or they can be found as ingredients in products, such as bread with whole wheat flour, or pancake mix with buckwheat. Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains is linked to lower heart disease risk – the Mayo Clinic, as well as other diseases.


How does stress effect your heart?

Taking a minute to chill out may also keep the heart healthy. Research shows an association between life stress and heart disease. Stress can kill you – 23 percent of Canadians report having a high degree of stress. There are many ways to reduce stress: meditation, yoga, essential oils, massage and antioxidant supplementation.


What should you NOT eat on a heart diet?

Your heart may beat better if you skip eating a few things. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey on Nutrition, over 85 percent of men and 60 percent of women consume more than the recommended amount of sodium. The main source of sodium in our diets comes from processed foods. Consuming too much sodium causes blood pressure to rise, a condition called hypertension. This increases the risk of heart disease. A simple solution is to choose low sodium items next time you shop. 

While you’re cutting bad foods out of your diet, chop off a hunk of bad fat from your plate. Bad fats can hinderblood flow. If you can imagine your blood vessels were as a highway, you can think of monounsaturated fats as small, speedy, easily maneuvered Mini Copers. Monounsaturated fats are those good fats found in olive oil, nuts and seeds. Mini Copers can easily navigate bends, turns and traffic making them great vehicles to have on your internal highway. On the other hand, saturated and trans fats, those fats that give many processed foods texture and a long shelf life, are like the tractor-trailers of the freeway. Tractor-trailers are large and have trouble negotiating turns. Plus, they can jack-knife, cause pile-ups and block flow.

Obviously, you want more Mini Coppers than tractor-trailers on your internal highway. Skip putting those boxed foods into your grocery cart. Processed foods contain saturated and trans fats. Even that little bag of brownies you thought would be a nice treat is packed with trans fats – manufacturers put them in so they stay soft for weeks. You are better off eating brownies you bake. To lower your intake of saturated fats, try to eat a few more dishes made with fish or beans – that will help you cut down on the amount of animal meat you are consuming.  


 The Best Foods For Heart Health

Most Western countries have mandatory labeling for trans fats on food labels – some European countries (e.g. Denmark) have taken steps to virtually ban trans fats. Even if your home country has not banned trans fats, luckily they are not found in whole foods, which are the best foods for heart health.


Excerpt from the book Aging Bites: How the foods you’re eating may be making you age faster.

Order your copy today – here. Available in soft-cover and ebook format.