Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Foods for a Healthy Heart

Hey scholars! I have been on a mission to clean up the way I eat. I do not think that I eat crap but I know that I could work to eat cleaner. So, in this post I will discuss foods that should be a staple in your diet (diet= way of eating, not starving to lose weight). I will discuss 18 foods that can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier heart.

Fresh Herbs:

When added to other foods, fresh herbs make dishes healthier because they replace trans fats, sugar, and salt. Fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary are helpful because they contain antioxidants. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause.” see Nation Cancer Institute






Oranges contain the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. It is said that orange juice may improve blood vessel function and modestly lower blood pressure through the antioxidant hesperidin.

Cherries are packed with anthocyanins, an antioxidant believed to help protect blood vessels. 

Blueberries contain anthocyanins which give them their deep blue color and support heart health. These little blue berries are also packed with ellagic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. 


Walnuts may lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart if consumed daily (about a small handful). Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. 

Almonds are  full of plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes. 


Salmon is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s may lower risk of rhythm disorders and reduce blood pressure. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides (cholesterol) and reduces inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.

Tuna Tuna is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s. Albacore (white tuna) contains more omega-3s than other tuna varieties, however; these other sources of omega-3s are great too: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies.


Coffee as well as tea may help protect your heart by warding off type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who drink 3-4 cups a day may cut their risk by 25% (decaffeinated coffee works also). Those who already have diabetes or hypertension should be careful because caffeine can complicate these conditions.

Red Wine may be a heart healthy choice for those who drink alcohol. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine, may protect artery walls. Alcohol can also boost HDL, the good cholesterol.

Other smart choices:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made from the first press of olives. It is especially rich in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. When olive oil replaces saturated fat (like butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels. Polyphenols may protect blood vessels.


Oats in all forms can help your heart by lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol. A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours, fights snack attacks, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable over time, making it useful for people with diabetes, too.


This shiny, honey-colored seed has three elements that are good for your heart: fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The body converts ALA to the more powerful omega-3s, EPA and DHA.

Cayenne Chili Pepper:

Shaking hot chili powder on food may help prevent a spike in insulin levels after meals.

Black Beans: 

Mild, tender black beans are packed with heart-healthy nutrients including folate, antioxidants, magnesium, and fiber which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Here is a mini dictionary for the terms that make you go "what the hell is that?!" 

ALA- Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. It is called “essential” because it is needed for normal human growth and development. Nuts, such as walnuts, are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid. It is also found in vegetable oils such as flaxseed (linseed) oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, and soybean oil, as well as in red meat and dairy products.

Anthocyanins- are a type of flavonoid, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. Found naturally in a number of foods, anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries, red onions, kidney beans, pomegranates, and grapes their rich coloring. In addition to acting as antioxidants and fighting free radicals, anthocyanins may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.

Beta-carotene- is a carotenoid, one of a group of plant pigments known to have antioxidant and other effects. This is a substance in plants that's quickly converted into vitamin A inside the body. Beta-carotene is often thought of as a form of vitamin A itself. Having normal levels of vitamin A is key for good vision, strong immunity, and general health.  

Catechins- are a type of flavonoid found in certain foods; several forms exist, but all are potent antioxidants that may help protect you from potentially damaging chemicals called free radicals.

DHA- Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 that is naturally found throughout the body and is most abundant in the brain, eyes, and heart. DHA ensures that the cells in the brain, retina, heart and other parts of the nervous system develop and function properly through all stages of life. 

Ellagic Acid- is a phytochemical, or plant chemical, found in raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts, pecans, pomegranates, and other plant foods. 

EPA- eicosapentaenoic acid has the potential to lower inflammation and improve patients’ response to chemotherapy. EPA can also reduce the probability of developing particular kinds of cancer, which includes multiple myeloma. Recent studies have shown that it can reduce depression and suicidal behavior.  

Hesperidin- is a plant chemical that is classified as a “bioflavonoid.” It is found primarily in citrus fruits.  Hesperidin alone, or in combination with other citrus bioflavonoids is most often used for blood vessel conditions such as hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and poor circulation (venous stasis).  

Lignans- are a group of chemical compounds found in plant-based foods including flaxseeds, sesame and pumpkin seeds, and rye. Lignans are also good antioxidants scavenging free radicals that may play a role in some diseases.

Lutein- Lutein is one of two major carotenoids found as a color pigment in the human eye (macula and retina). It is thought to function as a light filter, protecting the eye tissues from sunlight damage. Foods rich in lutein include broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, orange pepper, kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini, and squash.

Phytochemicals- refers to a wide variety of compounds made by plants, but is mainly used to describe those compounds that may affect human health. Phytochemicals are found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. Phytochemicals are promoted for the prevention and treatment of many health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. There is some evidence that certain phytochemicals may help prevent the formation of potential carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), block the action of carcinogens on their target organs or tissue, or act on cells to suppress cancer development. Many experts suggest that people can reduce their risk of cancer significantly by eating more fruits, vegetables, and other foods from plants that contain phytochemicals.

Resveratrol- is a member of a group of plant compounds called polyphenols. These compounds are thought to have antioxidant properties, protecting the body against the kind of damage linked to increased risk for conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes, but other sources include peanuts and berries.

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