Happy Valentine’s Day!
How are you celebrating? With your significant other? With friends? With chocolate? I’m having a movie night with friends, and I’m thinking chocolate is definitely going to be involved!
I’m also celebrating by writing this post about heart healthy nutrition, since it is Heart Month after all. So today’s post is all about foods for heart health!
Fish are a fantastic source of a special type of omega-3 fats known as DHA and EPA, which decrease your blood triglycerides and increase your HDL (your good cholesterol). They also reduce blood clots and can inhibit inflammation and plaque formation in your arteries (1).
2. Olive oil
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the heart benefits of following a Mediterranean diet, and this is because it’s high in monounsaturated fats from olive oil and other foods. When you replace the saturated fats in your diet with these these healthy fats, they decrease your LDL (your bad cholesterol) (2). Monounsaturated fats also decrease blood pressure and decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (3).
There’s a reason I love oatmeal other than it’s taste! Oats contain soluble fibre, which forms a gel and traps bile acids (which are made from cholesterol) in your GI tract. This has the effect of lowering your total blood cholesterol (4).
4. Bell Peppers
Citrus fruit always gets the spotlight when it comes to sources of vitamin C, but bell peppers are an amazing source of this vitamin. Just one cup of bell peppers gives you almost 200% of your daily needs! Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it helps to reduce oxidative stress in your body (5). This may decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in your arteries, which is a factor contributing to heart disease.
Lentils are a great source of folate, which is important for the proper functioning of your veins and arteries. It may work by lowering high levels of blood homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart disease (6).
Soy protein in high amounts of 25 g per day or more may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides (7).
7. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are very high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that reduces oxidative damage in the body. Researchers haven’t been able to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin E intake and reduced heart disease, but people with diets high in vitamin E do have a lower risk of heart disease. Also studies in mice found that vitamin E inhibited plaque build up in arteries, which contributes to heart disease (8).
8. Chocolate (!)
That’s right – all those magazine and news articles about chocolate being heart healthy are telling the truth! Chocolate is high in flavonoids, which are a kind of antioxidant. They may also have other roles in the body like anti-inflammatory effects, lowering blood pressure, and reducing risk of clotting. Dark chocolate and cocoa are especially high in these compounds. Research shows that diets high in flavonoids are linked with lower heart disease mortality – so go ahead and enjoy your Valentine’s Day chocolate today!
What are your favourite foods for heart health?
Are you doing anything for Valentine’s Day?
1. Narayan et al, Food Reviews International, 2006
2. Kris-Etherton et al, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999
3. Schwingshackl and Hoffmann, Nutrients, 2012
4. Theuwissen and Mensink, Physiology & Behaviour, 2008
5. Blomhoff, Current Opinion in Lipidology, 2005
6. Verhaar et al, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 2002
7. Clarkson et al, The Journal of Nutrition, 2002
8. Saremi and Arora, American Journal of Therapeutics, 2010
9. Ding et al, Nutrition and Metabolism, 2006