3 Unexpected Heart Healthy Foods

We all know the basic foods to eat, and lifestyle changes to make to improve our heart health. Eating fiber, limiting excessive alcohol intake, getting good sleep, and limiting stress are all great ways to keep our hearts happy and healthy, but some unexpected foods help keep our ticker strong! We only get 1 heart, so it’s essential to it being healthy, but that doesn’t mean avoiding the food we enjoy. When we think of “healthy” eating, we often think about only eating bowls of greens, avoiding fats, sweets, and the tasty foods we like to indulge in. Hopefully, this article will shed some light on some foods you either already have in your diet, or could add to help improve your heart health!


Garlic

When thinking of heart-healthy foods, do you generally think of garlic? Probably not. The health benefits of garlic can be found in a sulfur-containing compound called allicin found inside the garlic. We can maximize the allicin content of garlic by crushing the garlic and letting it sit for a few minutes before cooking with it, or just eating the garlic raw!


Some research has shown that in high enough doses, garlic extract can be as effective as atenolol, a commonly prescribed beta block, for reducing blood pressure. Garlic extract has also been shown in research to reduce platelet buildup in our blood vessels, which may reduce the likelihood of developing blood clots in our circulatory system. There are currently dozens of studies pointing to garlic extract being used to reduce total cholesterol, and LDL, which is often touted as “bad” cholesterol.


Garlic is not only a tasty additive to our food, but may also be improving our heart health each time we eat it!


Red Wine

We often think of alcohol being unhealthy across the board, but some evidence points to red wine as being heart healthy in moderation. Red wine contains compounds called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. These polyphenols help maintain the health in the lining of blood vessels in the heart itself! A polyphenol of particular note, resveratrol, is of particular interest. Resveratrol is found in the skin of the grapes, and due to the fact that red wine is fermented with the grape skin significantly longer than white wines, the resveratrol concentration is highest in red wines. Resveratrol has a few benefits to heart health, which makes it a powerhouse to keep our hearts healthy. Resveratrol has been shown in some data to reduce inflammatory levels in our blood vessels. Resveratrol also has been shown to reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol! 


For those not wanting to consume alcohol, red and purple grapes, blueberries, and cranberries are all great sources of resveratrol and other antioxidants! 


Dark Chocolate

Last, but certainly not least, is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains compounds called flavonoids, which have been shown to decrease artery calcification, and the likelihood of heart disease! Consuming dark chocolate each day has been linked with decreased chances of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Dark chocolate also has been shown to improve blood flow around our body by letting our veins and arteries expand, allowing for easier travel of blood. Keep in mind, we are talking dark chocolate. Eating sugar-laden milk chocolate may offset some of the health benefits we see from dark chocolate. It’s suggested to get chocolate that is 70% or more cacao.

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