Nutritionists recommend eating a variety of healthy foods instead of focusing on a few
A key component of the Mediterranean diet is the use of olive oil for cooking and for dressing salads and vegeles in place of more saturated ts, such as butter.
Those in the study who benefited most also closely followed the National Heart, Lung and Blood InstitutesDASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Its premise is Eat more veggies, fruits and lowt dairy foods while cutting way back on any food high in saturated t, and limit your intake of salt.
It may seem odd to include dairy in a list of top hearthealthy foods, but it turns out that milk, cheese and yogurt can help reduce blood pressure.
Plus, greens like most vegeles are full of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels, prevents constipation and therefore hemorrhoids and, by helping you feel full, helps with weight control. And of course, maintaining a healthy weight is a key to good heart health.
Other grains, such as rye, wheat and sorghum, contain betaglucans but in much smaller quantities than oats and barley.Betaglucans are also foundin seaweed, bakers yeast and various species of mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake and maitake.
You can make healthy foods unhealthy depending on how you cook them, Drayer said. For example, if you deepfry fish, all the unhealthy saturated or trans t can outweigh the hearthealthy benefits. Ideally, you want to broil, bake, grill or poach but in water, not in oil. Oil will contribute lots of extra calories. If a menu doesnt specify, ask how the fish is poached.
Studies have shown that eating less than a cup of legumes improvedblood pressure, and arandomized controlled trialfound that obese subjects who ate two servings a day of legumes and four servings of whole grains reduced their waist circumference, weight, triglycerides and blood pressure.
Correction A previous version of this story misstated where betaglucans are absorbed in the body.
The DASH meal plan includes three wholegrain products each day, four to six servings of vegeles, four to six servings of fruit, two to four servings of dairy products and several servings each of lean meats and nuts/seeds/legumes.
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There are some foods fortified with EPA and DHA omegas, added registered dietitianRahaf Al Bochi,a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some of them are eggs, milk, juices, peanut butter and margarine spreads.
Already eating a healthy diet? Be sure to add avocadoes once a day. Astudypublished in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that replacing saturated t with one nutrientpacked avocado a day could lead to up to a . milligramsperdeciliter reduction in blood pressure. That could be enough to keep some people off blood pressure meds, researchers say.
Greens have minimal calories One cup of spinach or Swiss chard is only calories, and kale has . Nutritionists say its usually best to get your calcium, magnesium and potassium from foods instead of supplements, so pile that plate high.
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Legumes contain no cholesterol and are only about t unless they are prepared with lard or other unhealthy ts. They are full of iron, manganese, copper, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous, and they are very low on the glycemic index, which means they have less effect on your blood sugar. They are also extremely high in protein; for example, a halfcup of some legumes has grams of protein.
Thats not all. Beets and their juice are one of the only sources of betalain, a powerful antioxidant with high antiinflammatory qualities, which has sparked research into how beets could be used to treat diseases caused by chronic inflammation, such asarthritiscancerandheart ilure.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated tty acids and has been shown to reduce blood pressure and both bad cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol.
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HDL is often called the friendly scavenger because it scours the blood for bad cholesterol and gets rid of it before it clogs arteries. Thats why having high levels of HDL is considered good for the heart.
Longchain omegas have been shown in human clinical trials to prevent heart attacks by helping the heart maintain its rhythm.Studiesshow that they also make blood less likely to clot, lower blood pressure, keep blood vessels healthy and less likely to narrow, reduce triglycerides and lower inflammation. Whew!
Heart UK says you can replace one of those oat servings with grams ⅔ cup of cooked pearl barley.
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If you feel like there is a superfood that you want to incorporate on a daily basis, say oats or salmon, thats OK, Drayer said, but I really feel that eating a variety of healthy foods is best, because youre getting a different nutrient package with each.
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Be aware that most fortified foods have afractionof the omegas of tty fish and may be the shorterchain variety.
Salad greens, spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard and mustard greens arerichin vitamins A, C, E and K and contain antioxidants that help rid toxins from the body. But its theirabundanceof calcium, magnesium and potassium that puts them on the top list for heart health.
The cell walls of oats and barley contain a special of soluble fiber called betaglucan, which has a host of benefits for human health.Studies show thatit blunts the bodys insulin response and boosts immunity, and it may be protective during radiation and chemotherapy. But its its role in cholesterol reduction that counts for heart health.
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Though to a lesser extent than longchain omegas, Drayer said, alpha linolenic acid ALA a shortchain omega found in walnuts and flaxseed and canola oil has been associated with protection against high blood pressure and heart disease.
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In astudyby Boston University, researchers followed the eating habits of , people for up to years and found that women who ate yogurt at least five times a week had a reduction in their risk of developing high blood pressure. Milk and cheese also had an impact on lowering blood pressure, but it was nothing like yogurt, said the researchers.
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Oats, salmon and dark leafy greens are just some of the most hearthealthy foods
The plantbased omegas in foods like flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil dont contain DHA and EPA, Drayer said. And while there are benefits to the plant ones as well, you cant count on them as a source for their longerchain cousins, because they are not necessarily converted into them once they are in the body.
The shorter chain of omega, called alphalinolenic acid ALA, is found abundantly in oils, plants, nuts and seeds, but evidence of its benefit is not as strong.
But keep in mind that all nuts are extremely high in calories. So an American Heart Associationrecommended servingis going to seem tiny about ½ ounces or lespoons of nut butter. Beware of the added salt, sugar or chocolate that is so appealing on nuts not good for heart health.
Potassium, magnesium and calcium are known to play a role in blood pressure regulation, said Al Bochi, who specializes in helping patients with Type diabetes who are at high risk for heart disease.
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The other thing I worry about is when people focus on one food, they may think that is their key to good health and eat more unhealthy foods, Drayer added. For example, some people say, I eat a lot of kale, so Im healthy, and they dont pay attention to the rest of their diet. No one food can undo damage from an unhealthy diet.
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One caveat Most people eat canned version of beans and other legumes, which will be packed with salt as a preservative. Salt, of course, can raise blood pressure.
No hearthealthy list would be complete without legumes, which include all kinds of beans, lentils, chickpeas and blackeyed peas.
Unsalted seeds and nuts are also high in potassium, magnesium and other minerals known to reduce blood pressure.
Youre getting the combination of benefits by consuming these foods because they do offer more than one hearthealthy nutrient, Drayer said.
Dairy products contain calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are important minerals to help with blood pressure control, Al Bochi said.
Make sure that you rinse the excess salt and water before consuming, Al Bochi said. And its not just beans and lentils. Whether its canned corn, canned peas, carrots, any of canned food, its important to remove the salt.
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Fish oils, especially omega tty acids, are critical for maintaining a healthy heart. That means tty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout and sardines and crustaceans such as lobster, oysters and squid are the protein staples of a hearthealthy diet. They all contain healthprotective omegas, specifically the longchain variety known as LC omega, which contain eicosapentaenoic acid EPA, docosapentaenoic acid DPA and docosahexaenoic acid DHA.
Betaglucans bind to bile acids and cholesterol in the intestines and prevent their absorption into the body, CNN contributor and registered dietitianLisa Drayersaid. So, if you have high cholesterol, it would be a good idea to incorporate oats or oatmeal for breakst on a regular basis.
Dairy products can contain a high amount of saturated t, so be sure to choose lowt products, Al Bochi said. Saturated t has been known to increase LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol that can cause heart disease.
Research shows that eating grams of betaglucans a day will reduce cholesterol by up to .According to Heart UK, a British charity dedicated to helping those with high cholesterol, you can accomplish by eating a bowl of oatmeal each day; adding lespoons of oat bran to your smoothie, soup or entree at lunch; and having an oatmeal cookie for a snack.
Though the study didnt track the of yogurt eaten, experts stress choosing lowt versions.
Walnuts, pecans, almonds, flaxseed, macadamia nuts and hazelnuts are also good choices. Walnuts are especially high in omegas but are the shortchain variety. Still, thats good for the heart.
However, Drayer says, be careful how you prepare your catch.
Fatty fish likesalmonhave the most longchain omegas, and the American Heart Associationrecommendsadding a ½ounce serving to your diet at least twice a week. Children and pregnant women should be careful to consume fish with lower levels of mercury, the association says, such as fresh and waterpacked canned salmon.
Regardless of how it works, olive oil is extremely high in calories. It should be used in moderation and as a replacement for more unhealthy ts in the diet.
Monounsaturated tty acids are a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to improveheart healthandbrain health, lower risk forbreast cancerand increaselongevity.
Studiesonpistachios, for example, find that the nut can reduce blood vessel tightening called peripheral vascular resistance, heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol. According toone study, a single helping a day was better at lowering blood pressure than two helpings.
Finally, a hearthealthy diet should just be part of an overall hearthealthy plan that includes exercise, weight loss, stress reduction and not smoking.
diet is to limit the amount of processed foods, the amount of frozen dinners, for example, as well as adding salt to foods yourself, Al Bochi said. Consider using some herbs and spices as well as fresh lemon and vinegar to add some flavor to your meals.
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Unless your doctor says otherwise, part of a hearthealthy diet is watching your salt intake. The hidden salt in many of our processed foods make it extremely difficult Its estimated that Americans get up to of the salt in their diet from processed foods. The American Heart Association has a list of some of the top offenders, called the Salty Six breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup and chicken.
In the Boston study, men and women who had a higher DASH score and who ate yogurt five or more times each week were less likely to develop hypertension than participants who had low DASH scores and ate little yogurt.
If you never eat fish, you might consider a fishoil supplement because of all the research on omegas benefits for heart and brain health, Drayer said.
So instead of having regular spread on your toast, you can add something to your diet that has an added heart benefit, Drayer said. Why not give yourself an added edge?
Potassium is known to help with limiting the effects of sodium on blood pressure, she explained, And it, along with magnesium and calcium, help the walls of the blood vessels relax, which increases blood flow and reduces blood pressure.
Arecent studyof Spanish men and women at high risk for cardiovascular events sheds some light on how the higher HDL from olive oil might work. Researchers compared people who ate a Mediterranean diet based on nuts and a group based on olive oil. The group who ate more olive oil had betterfunctioning HDL; in other words, their HDL was more efficient at finding and removing LDL and sending it to the liver as waste.
Legumeshelp the heartbecause of their high levels of soluble fiber, which is known to lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream.
Men in the study consumed much less yogurt than the women; the effect on their blood pressure was weaker.
Soluble fiber binds to extra LDL cholesterol in the body and disposes it in the form of waste, Al Bochi said. You can think of it as a of sponge.
A surprising choice? Beets turn out to be chock full of nitric oxide, whichstudiesshow can help open blood vessels and therefore lower your blood pressure. In ct, asmall studyof Australian men and women found that drinking grams about ½ cups of beet juice significantly lowered systolic blood pressure the top number in a blood pressure reading within six hours.
Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated tty acids, which canlowerboth your total cholesterol and your bad cholesterol LDL while maintaining your good cholesterol HDL levels. They can also benefitinsulin control, which can be very helpful to those with prediabetes or Type diabetes.
No. on the heart healthy list may seem odd, but its important. Experts say that rather than focusing on just one or two of the heart healthy foods, you would be better served to eat a wellrounded diet that focuses on healthy foods of all s and s.