Published on January 31st, 2021 | by April Thompson0
Best Foods for a Heart-Healthy Diet
Hypertension affects nearly half of all Americans, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading cause of death. We can help mitigate that risk and have a healthy “change of heart” by revamping our diets.
Michael Greger, a Seattle physician and author of the bestseller How Not to Die, disagrees that meat-based proteins have a place in a heart-healthy diet. “Only one way of eating has ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients: a diet centered around whole-plant foods,” says Greger, adding that the most critical risk factor is elevated LDL cholesterol. “To drastically reduce LDL cholesterol levels, we need to drastically reduce our intake of trans fat, which comes from processed foods and naturally from meat and dairy; saturated fat, found mainly in animal products and junk foods; and playing a lesser role, dietary cholesterol, found exclusively in animal-derived foods, especially eggs.”
Michelle Routhenstein, a preventive cardiology dietitian and owner of Entirely Nourished, a nutrition counseling practice in New York City, likes to meet clients where they are rather than trying to force a drastic switch they can’t maintain. “Often, people get very broad advice, like ‘Adopt a plant-based diet,’ but when it comes to the heart, you have to find a way of eating you can commit to long term. I start by asking what foods bring them joy, as well as their food dislikes, history and culture.”
Nutrients for Heart Health
Potassium is a key mineral for heart health, as it can help the body remove excess sodium, lower blood pressure and improve blood flow and blood vessel health. Yet research shows less than 2 percent of Americans get enough. Beans, sweet potatoes, lentils, beets and avocados are among many potassium-rich foods with multiple heart benefits.
There is a growing awareness of the importance of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, particularly in fish like wild salmon, arctic char and sardines. Routhenstein also advocates omega-9 fatty acids such as in tahini and avocado. Omega-9s have been shown to help increase HDL “good” cholesterol and decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol while protecting blood vessel health.
Servings for the Heart
Edamame’s flavors pair well with quinoa, crunchy cabbage and carrot slaw, and combine seamlessly with the spicy, toasty notes of the ginger-sesame dressing in this heart-healthy recipe. Read More »