8 Foods to Keep Your Heart Healthy and Lower Your Cholesterol
Over the past few decades, there has been considerable debate about which foods are harmful for heart health. First, it was widespread that butter increases cholesterol levels and it was safer to consume margarine. Then, it came out that margarine – which contains trans fat – was, in fact, harmful for heart health, and that butter was healthier. While it is clear that trans fatty acids accelerate heart disease, there is still a lot of confusion about which foods are considered heart healthy.
It’s time to learn the basics and review some heart healthy foods for you and your family. Here are eight foods that can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
1. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a common ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with low mortality rates for cardiovascular disease. When selecting olive oil, look for “extra virgin” and ideally organic as well. Most salad dressings use cheaper industrial seed oils such as canola, soybean, or sunflower oil as the base ingredient. Look for an olive oil or avocado oil–based salad dressing, and make your own whenever possible. Olive oil can also be used for cooking at low to medium temperatures.
2. Raw Nuts and Seeds
Raw nuts and seeds have been found to have a beneficial impact on many cardiovascular risk factors. They can be high in omega-3 fatty acids – which help lower the levels of cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol) in the blood – and are great additions to your daily snack, on top of salads, or in smoothies. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up the following:
- Chia Seeds
According to scientific research, avocados contain the ideal fatty-acid ratio needed to promote healthy blood lipid profiles (blood tests which measure your cholesterol levels) and support heart health. Avocados can be consumed on their own, as a base for a dip, in salad dressings or even in smoothies for a creamy texture.
4. Wild Fatty Fish
Certain fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been found to reduce your risk of cardiac death. Consume one pound of wild fish per week or take a high-quality fish oil supplement. Fish with high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids include:
5. Leafy Green Vegetables
A diet rich in leafy greens can also help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and fatal coronary heart disease. You can eat these raw in a salad or sauté them with other vegetables. Try these leafy greens:
- Mixed Greens
6. Dark Chocolate
Consumption of dark chocolate has been linked to improvement of coronary vascular function. Look for dark chocolate that is >80% cacao and that has <5g of sugar per serving to ensure that you are getting the health benefits.