5 Foods to Tackle Heart Disease

Monday, February 29, 2016

Heart Health

By Sheridan Jonas, Contributing Blogger

As heart disease continues to be the number one killer for both men and women, food has been highly researched to determine if any can help prevent it. A healthy diet featuring functional foods (or foods proven to help prevent disease) can help to tackle the number one killer.

A diet high in saturated and trans fats, as well as sodium is not only a risk for weight gain, but also increases the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends staying away from these foods, and instead, increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Additionally, functional foods have gained awareness with their ability to decrease the risk for heart disease when used in conjugation to a healthy diet. The term is not just some trendy word, but is defined as a food that provides health benefits beyond just calories, vitamins, and minerals.

Foods That Help prevent Heart Disease
Certain functional foods have been shown to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, protect artery lining, and stabilize heart rhythms. Here’s a look at the 5 functional foods you can incorporate for a heart healthy diet.

#1: Cranberries
Not only are you receiving an abundance of vitamins and minerals in every bite, but this functional food supplies flavonoids which is a compound in food that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions. Flavonoids are an important weapon to help shield your body from heart disease.

#2: Nuts and Seeds
Plant stanols and fiber are the major nutrient found in nuts and seeds that help to combat heart disease. Plant stanols have been shown to help block the body’s uptake of cholesterol, helping to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts and seeds make the perfect on-the-go snack or salad topper to protect your heart.

#3: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This oil contributes a good, monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Oleic acid has been shown to halt LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation, which is a direct cause of heart disease. Drizzle EVOO on veggies and pop in the oven for a heart healthy side dish.

#4: Red Wine
Red wine contains phenols which is particularly beneficial to reducing the risk for heart disease. However, this doesn’t give you permission to guzzle glasses of wine. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a maximum of 1 to 2 drinks a day for women and men, respectively (more than that can actually cause health problems). Moderate alcohol intake can provide these wonderful, heart healthy phenols.

#5: Soy
This popular vegetarian protein has also been shown to help prevent heart disease. Isoflavones found in soy are known for their cholesterol lowering effects in the body. Next time you make a trip to the grocery store pick up some soy milk or soy yogurt.

Bottom Line: Functional foods alone by no means will neither completely prevent, nor treat heart disease. However, these foods are great to keep in mind when making healthy choices. Incorporating these foods into your diet will help keep you heart healthy and most likely your weight down, when done in conjunction with a healthy eating plan.

Sheridan Jonas is a senior at Miami University and currently finishing her undergraduate degree in Nutrition (Dietetics) and Premed. She works as a nationally certified group fitness instructor and teaches both kickboxing and toning. Upon graduation, she plans on doing a dietetic internship and becoming and registered dietitian to furthering her passion in nutrition

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