Cardiovascular health is important for the general function of your body. High blood pressure—or when your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood throughout your body—is correlated to many health-related issues, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and even mortality. High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, which, according to the World Health Organization, is the leading cause of death worldwide. As such, heart health is a global health concern that should not be taken lightly.1
Luckily, there are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your overall heart health. These include adopting a healthy diet, losing weight, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and reducing your consumption of alcohol. Dietary changes, in particular, have been shown to have a significant impact in regulating and maintaining a person’s blood pressure.1
The ideal healthy heart diet is low in fat, sugar, and lean red meats, and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low/non-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and nuts.1
Here are some of the benefits of increasing the fruit and vegetable content of your diet1:
- They protect your heart: Fruits and vegetables are cardioprotective—meaning they protect the heart from things like heart disease.
- They help to fend off disease: There is an association between eating lots of fruits and vegetables with lower instances of chronic illnesses (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, certain eye diseases, and osteoporosis).
One of the reasons why researchers believe fruits and vegetables are able to do so much is because of their high flavonoid content—a class of nutrients found specifically in plants. They have been shown to protect the heart and stave off high blood pressure.1 There are a number of plant foods that are recommended to help with your cardiovascular health:
Top 5 Plant Foods for Your Heart2-4
- Walnuts: These aren’t just a flavourful snack, salad topping, or ingredient in your banana bread—they have lots of good fats that can help cut your risk of heart disease in half by decreasing bad (LDL) cholesterol and raising good (HDL) cholesterol. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamin E, and folate.
- Chia seeds: These seeds come from South America, and are known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce bad cholesterol and prevent plaque build-up in the heart or arteries. You can add them to smoothies, berries, oatmeal, or cereal.
- Berries: No surprise here; berries are packed with fibre, vitamin C, and antioxidants, which help clear the body of free radicals.
- Chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes: These protein-packed powerhouses are also high in the kinds of fibre that are easy to digest and can help lower cholesterol. Make sure that if you’re getting the canned variety to get low in sodium options, or rinse them to help remove excess salt.
- Whole grains: These include whole grain bread, barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, and farro. These grains add plenty of needed fibre to your diet. Diets high in fibre are both associated with a higher-quality diet overall and with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Even if you don’t have heart disease or high blood pressure, diet is part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Your chiropractor can make some recommendations to align with your musculoskeletal health plans. Remember to stay active, eat well, and set realistic goals. As always, remember to eat your fruits and vegetables.
- Clark J, Zahradka P, Taylor C. Efficacy of flavonoids in the management of high blood pressure. Nutr Rev. 2015; 73(12): 799-822. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv048.
- Jennings K. Top 11 heart-healthy foods. WebMD. 2016. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/11-top-heart-healthy-foods#1. Accessed November 25, 2016.
- Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Eat to lower your cholesterol. 2016. Available at: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/eat-to-lower-your-cholesterol. Accessed November 28, 2016.
- Lichtenstein AH, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation. 2006; 114(1): 82-96. Erratum in: Circulation. 2006; 114(23): e629. Circulation. 2006; 114(1): e27.