Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. If it’s weak, you’re weak. There are a few things you can do to provide your heart with what it needs to be at its best. The first is to get plenty of exercise. Your heart is a muscle, it needs to be worked. Second, avoid toxins that damage your cardiovascular system — don’t smoke, avoid high fat foods, and limit your refined sugar intake. Here are ten foods you can add to your diet to increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants necessary to maintain a healthy heart. And they’re delicious too.
1. SALMON – Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids top the list of reasons salmon is good for your heart. Vitamin D aids calcium digestion, supports immune function, has been linked to weight loss and management, and is needed for proper brain function, especially as we age.
2. BROCCOLI – a recent study showed broccoli and similar cruciferous veggies lowered the risk of cardiac associated death more than other fruits and vegetables.
3. ASPARAGUS – a ½ cup serving of asparagus is loaded with folate, vitamins A, C, and K, and provides a full range of minerals like magnesium and potassium needed for proper muscle function. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids and is a good source of protein.
4. CHICKPEAS – A single cup of chickpeas offers a complete source of vitamins (specifically the B complex vitamins), minerals (zinc, iron, magnesium, selenium and potassium), amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. A study evaluating the impact of chickpeas on lipid levels showed lower levels of cholesterol after they became a standard feature of the diet.
5. SPINACH – Spinach, often referred to as a superfood, provides potent phytochemicals, vitamins A, C and K, and calcium and magnesium. One serving of spinach will give you 20% of the daily recommended value of magnesium. This is important as the body needs magnesium for proper muscle function, to control blood sugar, to regulate blood pressure and create glutathione, the body’s super-antioxidant.
6. ALMONDS – Perhaps the most complete nut, almonds provide B-complex vitamins, vitamin E and high daily values of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium – all needed for proper muscle function, immune health and hormone balance. Almonds have also proven more effective at balancing cholesterol than eliminating dietary saturated fats, while providing necessary fatty acids for better overall cardiovascular health.
7. OLIVES – The heart healthy Mediterranean diet features both olives and olive oil. They possess antioxidant properties and supply omega-3 fatty acids and phenolic compounds. Olives (combined with the next food on the list) help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
8. RED WINE – Red wine contains resveratrol, which has protective effects against most cardiovascular problems. Studies have isolated these beneficial effects to the polyphenols and their antioxidant properties. Again, the benefits only result when consumed in moderation. For a kid-friendly, or non-alcoholic source of resveratrol, give mulberries a try.
9. AVOCADO – Packed with nutrients and phytochemicals, avocados contain fatty acids that facilitate the digestion of the fat-soluble vitamins within, or those consumed along with, the avocado. Preliminary studies have shown positive cardiovascular support from a diet that includes avocados.
10. WALNUTS – The polyunsaturated fats as found in walnuts have been linked to a healthy heart. Recently their antioxidant levels have caught the attention of researchers. A 2012 study found walnuts possess a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity, indicating a powerful antioxidant capacity.