12 Foods to Eat for a Healthy Heart and Blood Vessels

Food truly is the best medicine if you’re trying to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels. Research shows that certain foods are better than others. Here are some of the best foods to eat to maintain or improve your heart health:

Almonds

Snack on almonds instead of unhealthy snack options and you’ll likely see an improvement in your heart and blood vessel health. That’s because raw, unsalted almonds are packed with artery-protecting vitamin E and heart-boosting minerals like calcium and magnesium.

Apples

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be true when it comes to heart attack prevention. Research published in the online journal BMJ showed that eating an apple a day or taking statin drugs daily resulted in an equivalent reduction of mortality from heart attack or stroke. They also found that if even 70 percent of the British population ate an apple every day, the UK would have 8500 fewer deaths every year linked to these conditions.

Beans

Whether you choose chickpeas or pinto beans, add at least a half cup of beans to your diet. Their fiber binds to harmful substances before they can scour your arteries, making them an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet.

Blueberries

Let’s face it: blueberries make the list for top food to heal almost anything, so it’s probably no surprise that they offer heart and blood vessel benefits as well. These tiny blue fruits are high in natural anthocyanins and catechins. Both of these important phytonutrients decrease inflammation, including within the blood vessels. Inflammation within the blood vessels causes plaque build up (which is the body’s repair mechanism but over time can contribute to heart disease).

Cinnamon

You may want to expand cinnamon’s place in your diet after learning that a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine found that taking 120 mg of cinnamon daily (one teaspoon equals about 2600 mg of cinnamon) resulted in lower blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride (fats in the blood) levels.  What do lower blood sugars, cholesterol and triglyceride levels mean? Healthier blood vessels. So, add a few dashes of cinnamon to your next soup, stew, curry, oatmeal, toast or cereal.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseeds and the oil extracted from the seeds are rich in heart-healing and anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids. Be sure to use freshly-ground flax seeds since they need to be ground for your body to be able to extract the oils from them. A coffee grinder works well. I grind enough for a few weeks and store in a sealed bag in the fridge. Add flaxseeds to your smoothies, cereal, oatmeal or add flaxseed oil to salads or salad dressings.

Garlic

Garlic helps to keep blood thin and flowing smoothly through your blood vessels and is just a great food for the heart. Ideally, try to get at least one clove of garlic in your diet every day. Cooking garlic destroys some of its beneficial properties but cooked garlic is still a good addition to your diet. Add raw garlic to your soups, stews, curries and salad dressings to give your heart a boost.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are high in many nutrients, including the B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B6, B12 and folate—all of which are essential for normal homocysteine levels.  Homocysteine is a type of protein that is produced by the body and found in the blood, ideally in low levels. High homocysteine levels is a factor for heart disease so it’s wise to keep them low by eating more leafy greens. Additionally, leafy greens are high in the nutrient lutein. Research in the journal Atherosclerosis found vegetables high in lutein were particularly beneficial in reducing heart disease but even treating the condition after it has formed.

Red Cabbage Microgreens

According to research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry microgreens grown from red cabbage seeds may reduce cardiovascular disease risk. The researchers assessed the effects of red cabbage microgreens on lipids and inflammatory markers known as cytokines that are involved in heart disease and concluded they “may protect against cardiovascular disease…”

Rosemary

You’ll definitely want to add more of the herb rosemary to your diet after you learn about its research-proven heart benefits. According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food researchers found that adding the herb rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) to your diet can also help treat heart disease. The researchers found that compounds naturally found in rosemary have significant anti-inflammatory effects, which is an underlying factor in the condition. Finely chop fresh rosemary and add it to savory baked goods, soups, stews or vegetable dishes.

Sauerkraut

You’re probably surprised to see sauerkraut on the list of best foods for a healthy heart but research shows that this unsung superfood should be given a rightful place in your diet. Published in the medical journal Food and Function researchers found that unpasteurized sauerkraut contained a potent probiotic known as Lactobacillus plantarum to which many of sauerkraut’s heart-healing abilities could be attributed. Opt for sauerkraut you’ll find in the refrigerator section of your grocery or health food store and be sure it says “unpasteurized” or contains “live cultures” to reap the benefits. Better yet, make your own. It’s much easier than you may think.

Walnuts

Like flaxseeds, walnut contain high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the blood vessels. Research in the medical journal Circulation found that supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids can even help to heal the heart and reverse some of the damage caused by a heart attack. If you’ve never tasted fresh, raw walnuts from the refrigerator section of your health food store, you may be surprised at how delicious and buttery-tasting they are. I wasn’t a fan of walnuts until I tried fresh ones, which are not like their rancid, bitter-tasting counterparts most people think of when they consider walnuts.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.

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