[PART 2]: 20 Foods Proven to Support Heart Health

5 Mins
October 3, 2016

In our recent post leading to the World Heart Day, we started a list of 20 foods proven to support the health of your heart. This week we bring you the continuation of this interesting list. It is critical that you pay close attention to how these foods impact on the health of our hearts and consequently our overall well-being since the heart is a very important to human life and health.

Walnuts

This nut is full of polyunsaturated fatty acids; the kind of fats that are good for your heart. It is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and vitamin E. These nutrients are very necessary to maintain a healthy heart. It is recommended that you eat walnuts unsalted as salting may buffer out their heart-healthful benefits.

Spices

Several natural spices contribute in diverse ways to the health of consumers. Among these, garlic, cinnamon and turmeric are notable for their effect on the heart. Garlic contains a high amount of a chemical called allicin which helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduces the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels. This is good for the heart because blood clots could clog the heart and/or the blood vessels and cause fatal heart problems. Cinnamon is good for the heart because of its high antioxidant content. A study which investigated the antioxidant activity of 26 spices found cinnamon to be among those that have the highest antioxidant activity. This enables cinnamon to contribute positively to the health of the heart by protecting its cells from damage. Turmeric, the main component of curry powder and the one that gives curry powder its yellow color is also rich in antioxidants, making it good for the heart.

Avocado

Avocado is a good source of vitamin K and folic acid. The natural component of avocado which makes it good for the heart is the monounsaturated fats it contains. The monounsaturated fats help to reduce blood cholesterol level as well as formation of blood clots. It is important, however, to note that avocado is high in calories so you have to be very moderate in your consumption.

Coffee

Very well-known for its caffeine, coffee is often side-lined when healthy foods are mentioned. But studies show that coffee is high in antioxidants. The import of antioxidants in heart health cannot be overstated. Coffee is known to be the largest food reserve of potent antioxidants. Beyond having a high content of antioxidants, coffee contains some of the antioxidants with the highest bio-availability (easily digested, absorbed and used by the body). So if you’re a coffee lover like I am, you are doing your heart a great service by drinking coffee. Also, it has been found that up to 3 cups of coffee a day improves brain health and helps to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of studies are on-going to further establish the positive effect of coffee on the heart.

Watermelon

Watermelon contains about 92% water, nonetheless, this fruit is filled with vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, lycopene, amino acids and potassium. Watermelons are free of fat, with a very low sodium content; good indicators of a food good for the heart. This fruit contains citrulline, a chemical which is converted to the arginine (an amino acid). Arginine aids the flow of blood improving circulation and enhancing heart health. The lycopene level in watermelon is one of the highest in foods enabling the fruit to protect cells from damage and reduce risk for heart diseases according to a research conducted at Purdue University. Also, a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that some components of watermelon could reduce blood pressure in obese prehypertensive middle-aged adults. This is good news for watermelon fanciers.

Almonds

For people who do not like the bitter flesh of walnuts can make do with almonds. Just like walnuts, almonds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. The presence of these fatty acids in almonds enable them to prevent blood clotting in the blood vessels easing blood flow. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to lower cholesterol level in the blood. Munching on some almonds promotes good heart health.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit is another great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants. Further, grapefruits contain a strong combination of nutrients and phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants) which are good for the heart: fibre, vitamin C, potassium, lycopene and choline. This blend of nutrients and phytochemicals helps the fruit to maintain a healthy heart as each of the nutrients mentioned play different roles in ensuring normal blood cholesterol level, normal blood pressure, no formation of blood clots in the blood vessels and ease blood flow.

Soy milk

Rich in niacin which eases blood circulation, soy milk is a low fat zero cholesterol beverage which helps to reduce blood cholesterol level due to its rich isoflavone content. In a 2006 scientific advisory experts pointed out that many soy products may have beneficial effect on cardiovascular health due to their high content of fibre, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fats and low saturated fat content. So the next time you think of drinking milk, you may consider drinking soy milk.

Broccoli

Even though broccoli is quite comparable to cauliflower, it is often considered a one-stop shop for fibre, vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in antioxidants. According to researchers at the Imperial College of London, sulforaphane; a chemical found in broccoli may prevent inflammation of blood vessels and also prevent the formation of plaques in the blood vessels which may lead to the hardening of the blood vessels. This reduces risks associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Olive oil

The oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree which is common in the Mediterranean region. Olive oil forms part of the Mediterranean diet. It has been found that people who consume olive oil and the Mediterranean diet as a whole generally live longer and have lower risks of heart diseases than people who consume other types of diets. Olive oil is good for the heart because of its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids. This type of fatty acid reduces blood clot formation, the level of blood cholesterol and protects blood vessels. All of these contribute to a good heart health. It is good then to substitute some of your cooking oil with olive oil.

All these foods play crucial roles in ensuring your heart is at its peak due to the nutritional benefits of the vitamins, minerals, the kind of fats (unsaturated fats), fibre, antioxidants and other chemical components which occur naturally in these foods. Other factors such as exercise also have a strong effect on the health of your heart.

Share other foods whose role in supporting heart health cannot be jettisoned with us in the comments section below. We would love to hear them. Your questions are equally welcome.

Hello! I am Bezalel Adainoo, the author of Stay Well Now. My friends call me Bez. As a professional food scientist, I have been asked many questions by people from different walks of life seeking the right information on what food to eat and how that will affect their health.