Our lifestyles and diet have a lot more to do with our heart than the number of years we have lived.
Given today's hectic lifestyles, irregular sleep patterns, unhealthy diet, high levels of stress and lack of physical activity, no wonder we hear several young, seemingly healthy professionals collapsing mid-day due to heart related factors. Heart disease is no longer an age-related illness.
While we have made considerable advancements in the field of cardiology, it is not enough for us to leave our hearts to chance. Several common foods rich in nutrients can work to help prevent heart illnesses, when consumed daily and accompanied by a healthy lifestyle. Here are 18 superfoods that'll have your heart going 'Thank You!'
1. Flaxseeds - Loaded with heart-healthy Omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans and fibre, flaxseed can be consumed in the form of ground powder, in baked items, as flax meal and so on. The Omega-3s work wonders for anti-inflammation, heartbeat normalization, lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol levels.
2. Chia seeds - High in fibre, Omega-3s and protein, chia seeds can help lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammation, while increasing heart healthy HDL cholesterol.
3. Whole grains - A diet comprising of whole grains helps in reducing LDL cholesterol levels. The fibre content in whole grains helps to lower triglycerides and cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels.
4. Puffed-rice/Oatmeal - Puffed-rice is rich in potassium, zinc, copper, thiamine, niacin, Vitamin B6 pantothenic acid, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese. If you eat puffed-rice regularly you don't need to eat Vitamin B complex supplements. Oats are also known for their high fibre content, that help remove cholesterol from the digestive system. The beta-glucan fibre present in oats lowers cholesterol levels in the blood, thus preventing plaque build-up in the walls of blood vessels.
5. Broccoli - This non-starchy vegetable helps reduce cholesterol levels. It contains sulforaphane which has anti-inflammatory properties and could prevent damage to blood vessel linings. Its B-complex vitamins work to regulate or reduce homocysteine levels.
6. Spinach -Loaded with Vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and folate, spinach packs the punch when it comes to cardiovascular health! This green leafy vegetable works wonders in preventing the build-up of oxidized cholesterols in blood vessel walls, lowering homocysteine levels, regulating blood pressure, and maintaining a healthy heart.
7. Salmon - Another great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is also naturally rich in protein, Vitamins B and D. Consuming this oily fish at least twice a week helps in regulating blood pressure and reducing the amount of triglycerides in your system.
8. Sardines - Touted to be one of the richest sources of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, sardines are also bursting with the goodness of Vitamin B12. The vitamin promotes cardiovascular health as it works to keep the homocysteine levels in check, thereby protecting your arteries.
9. Walnuts - This superfood contains the amino acid L-arginine which helps maintain the elasticity and flexibility of arterial walls, making them less prone to blood clots and blockages. They are also rich in unsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, Vitamin E and plant sterols.
10. Almonds - These heart-healthy nuts contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E, magnesium and potassium that work to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, maintain arterial and venal health, foster healthy muscular contraction and regulate blood pressure.
11. Raisins - Cholesterol and fat free, and rich in potassium, raisins help in reducing cholesterol oxidation that could lead to atherosclerosis. They can also help lower high blood cholesterol triglyceride levels.
12. Apples - The polyphenol antioxidants in this delicious fruit help in blocking oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thus reducing the chances of atherosclerosis or hardening of arteries that can cause stroke.
13. Oranges - These nutrient-rich fruits are loaded with Vitamin C, folate, potassium, magnesium, phytochemicals, flavanones, polyphenols and fibre! Oranges help in reducing oxidation of cholesterol, preventing accumulation of excess homocysteine, controlling blood pressure and fighting inflammation.
14. Berries - The phytochemicals, Vitamin C, carotenes, zinc, iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium, fibre and low sugar content in berries make them heart-friendly superfoods that you'd love to eat! Berries help in preventing plaque build-up and promote healthy blood pressure.
15. Avocado - Rich in potassium, consuming avocados can help normalize blood pressure. They also contain mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, that can help reduce LDL levels and decrease the risk of heart diseases.
16. Dark chocolate - Higher cocoa content in dark chocolate translates into higher flavonoid levels; flavonoids help in lowering blood pressure, improving blood circulation to the brain and heart, preventing blood clots and fighting damage to cells.
17. Green tea - The EGCG in green tea is known for its anti-oxidant properties which help in improving blood flow, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and protecting against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol particles that can cause atherosclerosis.
18. Olive oil - MUFAs or monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil are dietary fats; these make olive oil healthy for cardiovascular functioning when used instead of other fatty foods and oil sources.
These 18 superfoods are all packed with beneficial nutrients for the healthy functioning of your heart. However, just these foods are not enough. A well-balanced meal coupled with regular physical activity, regulated sleep cycle and reduced levels of stress are all integral for the promotion of cardiovascular health and ultimately a long and healthy life.