My husband often says, “What’s good for your heart, is good for your brain.” At the Amen Clinics we treat the whole person.
Heart disease claims the lives of one in three Americans. Yet almost all heart attacks and strokes are potentially preventable. Along with regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, what you eat can play a surprisingly big role in protecting your heart health.
Here are five delicious foods that fight cardiovascular disease—and the chronic inflammation that often drives it.
- Colorful fruits and vegetables. A study of more than 313,000 people found that for each serving of fruits and vegetables consumed daily, the risk of fatal cardiovascular events fell by four percent. During the eight-year study, those who ate at least eight servings of about 3 ounces apiece had a 25 percent lower of dying from a heart attack or stroke, compared to people who ate less than three servings a day.
- Nibble dark chocolate. Your heart—and taste buds—will rejoice when you indulge in this delicious superfood. People who eat the most dark chocolate have a 37 percent lower risk for heart disease and 29 percent drop in stroke danger, compared to those who ate the least, according to a review of studies involving about 114,000 volunteers. However, those with the highest chocolate consumption only averaged 7.5 grams (about one-fourth of an ounce) daily. A square or two daily is all you need for heart health.
- Nuts. Go nuts about this news: An analysis of more than 40 studies found eating nuts lower both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Four of the studies also found that risk for dying from heart disease dropped by 8.3 percent for each weekly serving of nuts the participants ate. The tasty little nuggets have a unique fatty acid profile, along with such heart-protective substances as fiber, folic acid, magnesium, copper, and phytosterols.
- Fatty fish. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, combat inflammation and plaque buildup in the arteries. An analysis of 20 studies reports that eating one to two 3-ounce servings a week cuts the threat of fatal heart disease by 36 percent. Eating fatty fish frequently also helps lower blood pressure, triglycerides (blood fats) and inflammatory markers linked to heart attack risk. For the best defense, buy wild-caught fish.
- Extra virgin olive oil. Scientists have discovered the antioxidant in olive oil that offers the most protection against heart attack and stroke: DHPEA-EDA. Portuguese researchers report that it helps prevent oxidative damage linked to plaque buildup. The study offers a compelling reason to reach for virgin olive oil, which has more of this heart-protective antioxidant, compared to other oils. Another study found that people who use extra virgin olive oil frequently for cooking or as a salad dressing are 41 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who use it rarely.