“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” The simplicity and accuracy of those words, written by Michael Pollan in his masterpiece In Defense of Food, are unmatched.  Let’s take a look at some options.

1. Blueberries and blackberries

Blueberries improve both blood pressure and the healthy flexibility of arteries, making them act younger [1,2] thanks to the rich sources of polyphenols they have. Polyphenols improve your health in six ways says Dr. Joel Kahn: RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU Lower cholesterol
Lower blood pressure
Improve artery (endothelial) function
Prevent platelet clumping
Improve arterial flexibility
Improved life span

2. Herbs

The top 100 richest foods in polyphenols have been studied and a list was published [3] that included these herbs: sage, rosemary, spearmint, thyme, basil, cloves, star anise, Mexican oregano, dried and celery seeds. So don’t underestimate the power of herbs. Use them to flavor your soups, stews and any meal you are making. By using herbs and spices you also will be able to cut down on salt. Many of us eat too much salt. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke. NHS guidelines suggest that adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day – that’s around one teaspoon.

3. Fermented vegetables

Systems of the body don’t function alone, but interact in a matrix. New research published online in the FASEB Journal suggests that the types and levels of bacteria in the intestines may be used to predict a person’s likelihood of having a heart attack, and that manipulating these organisms may help reduce heart attack risk. The fact that we have perhaps 100 trillion bacteria living in our bodies, estimated to be 10 times the number of cells in our body; the fact that our bacteria weigh at least 5 pounds shows how important microbiome is to our health. [4] Keeping the gut healthy with prebiotics like fermented vegetables would benefit lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. An analysis of nine studies [5] using probiotics found a reduction in blood pressure compared to placebo. Load your plate with raw sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented cucumbers (pickles) and drink kombucha tea.

4. Nuts and seeds

The Nurses’ Health Study, a 14-year study of more than 84,000 female nurses in the US, found that eating nuts five times a week reduced heart disease risk by 35 percent—a risk reduction similar to the effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. One of the reasons – nuts contain arginine, an amino acid that the body converts into nitric oxide. This gaseous molecule protects against the adherence of plaque, prevents blood platelets from sticking together, and relaxes the arteries, helping to lower blood pressure naturally. Choose sesame and pumpkin seeds, black walnuts and almonds for their highest amount of arginine.

5. Dark Chocolate

those 10 good foods2 Chocolate contains flavonoids that act as antioxidants. When compared with non-chocolate eaters, those who ate chocolate once a week reduced their risk for cardiac death by 44 percent. Those who indulged twice a week or more reduced their risk by 66 percent. [6]. Not all chocolate is created equal. The darker the chocolate, the higher its flavonoid content. Choose the purest dark chocolate you can find. The heart-healthiest dark chocolate has at least 70 percent cocoa solids.

6. Fish

Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk, and reduce irregular heartbeats [7]. Eating at least one to two servings a week of fish, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death.

7. Flax seeds

I wanted to say oats, but decided to go with flax seeds due to higher amount of fiber. Oats have 11 grams vs 27 grams of fiber in flax seeds unless you go with oat bran, the outer hull of the oat grain. Flaxseed occupies a similar niche in a healthy diet. Previous research [8] has also found an inverse association between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease to begin with. Research published just last year also found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by seven percent [9]. I believe about 32 grams per day is ideal. For more fiber sources refer to this fiber chart.

8. Beet greens and Swiss chard

Until recently, humans consumed a diet high in potassium. However, with the increasing consumption of processed food, which has potassium removed there has been a large decrease in potassium intake. Epidemiological and clinical studies show that a high-potassium diet lowers blood pressure in individuals with both raised blood pressure and average population blood pressure. Prospective cohort studies and outcome trials show that increasing potassium intake reduces cardiovascular disease mortality [10]. This is mainly attributable to the blood pressure-lowering effect and may also be partially because of the direct effects of potassium on the cardiovascular system. Beet greens and Swiss chard have the highest amount of potassium.

 9. Beans

Beans are another great source of fiber and potassium that greatly benefit heart health (mentioned above). Go for Lima or Pinto beans.

10. Tomato

A daily “tomato pill,” composed of 7 milligrams (mg) of the antioxidant lycopene, may help to prevent heart disease, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE [11] Lycopene is a fat-soluble nutrient, which means eating it with some dietary fat is essential in order for it to be properly absorbed. Tomato juice or cooked tomato-based foods, such as organic tomato sauce, tomato paste, and spaghetti sauce, are among the best dietary sources of lycopene.  If you don’t like tomato, go for watermelon and get twice that amount of lycopene in one slice of it. Cardiovascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 adults (almost 1 in 5 men and 1 in 8 women die from heart disease, according to HRIUK). The good news is that some little habits can make a big difference in your ability to live a healthy lifestyle. To prevent heart attacks, avoid unhealthy food, and eat foods rich in nutrients, fiber, and healthy fats. Plus invest in very good blender to make smoothies and soups, a Crock-Pot and a steamer. To your health! Reference: [1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25578927
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3274736/
[3]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=identification+of+the+100+richest+dietary+sources+of+polyphenols
[4] http://www.internationaljournalofcardiology.com/article/S0167-5273(14)02176-7/abstract
[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25047574
[6] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2009.02088.x/abstract
[7] http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/21/2747.full
[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8627965?dopt=Citation
[9] http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/03/27/STROKEAHA.111.000151.abstract
[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18724413
[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24911964

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