Recommended Foods for Cardiovascular Health

May 25, 2020
Diet-associated risk factors play an essential role in the development of cardiovascular diseases. In this article, discover recommended foods for cardiovascular health.

Although you surely know that eating certain foods can increase your risk of heart disease, it’s often difficult to change eating habits. In this article, we share the recommended foods for cardiovascular health.

By knowing which foods you can eat the most and which ones you should limit, you’ll be on your way to a heart-healthy diet.

The Mediterranean diet is considered the most heart-healthy. In other words, the one that best helps prevent cardiovascular diseases. This diet is characterized by a high content of fruits, vegetables, oily fish, legumes, nuts, and olive oil.

What are cardiovascular diseases?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of heart and blood vessel diseases, including:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cerebrovascular diseases
  • Peripheral arterial diseases
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolisms

Often, heart attacks and strokes are phenomena caused by blockages that don’t allow blood to flow to the heart or brain. The most frequent cause of these conditions is the formation of fat deposits on the walls of the blood vessels that supply these organs.

These diseases often manifest due to a combination of risk factors, such as smoking, unhealthy diets and obesity, physical inactivity, harmful alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia.

Why should you watch what you eat

A doctor holding a plastic heart.
Cardiovascular diseases are one of the main preventable deaths in developed countries.

Many factors are involved in cardiovascular health. A sedentary lifestyle or the consumption of alcohol and tobacco have strong negative repercussions that can be devastating. The same goes for nutrition, which is key to avoiding these diseases.

According to data from the World Health Organization, “An estimated 17.5 million people died from CVDs in 2012, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to strokes”.

You should also read: Ten Things that Will Motivate You to Follow the Mediterranean Diet

Recommended foods for cardiovascular health

Nuts

Walnuts are one of the best foods for cardiovascular health. Consuming them helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fact that they’re rich in omega-3 and phytosterols, which is a substance that helps reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil in a container.
This product is one of the best ways to include fats in your diet and plays an important role in cardiovascular disease prevention.

This is one of the basic and essential foods for cardiovascular health in Mediterranean cuisine. Thus, you should consume it every day. Thanks to the fact that it contains monounsaturated fats, it helps reduce bad cholesterol levels. In addition, it helps increase good cholesterol.

On the other hand, its vitamin E content also serves as an antioxidant to prevent oxidative damage, one of the factors that affects atherosclerosis and blood vessel damage.

Legumes

They contain a significant amount of high-quality vegetable proteins. Also, thanks to their low-fat content, they’re an essential food in any diet to reduce blood cholesterol.

According to recent studies, people who eat legumes every day have up to 22% less risk of suffering from heart disease compared to low consumers of this food.

Broccoli, one of the foods for cardiovascular health

Chopped broccoli.
Eating vegetables, and especially broccoli, promotes heart health and the prevention of certain diseases.

This is one of the superfoods that you just have to include in your diet. Not only do experts believe that it could help prevent various types of cancer, but it’s also good for heart health.

In addition, broccoli contains zinc, iron, folic acid, vitamin K, calcium, and antioxidants, providing extra protection against the risk of cardiovascular events.

Eat fruit and vegetables every day

Experts recommend consuming at least three pieces of fruit and vegetables a day but no more than one juice a day. This is because the latter has a less satiating effect and doesn’t have the same nutritional properties as whole fruit. Also, you should avoid pre-cooked or packaged vegetables, as they tend to contain a lot of preservatives.

Limit your intake of unhealthy fats

A woman eating fried chicken.
Experts have associated a high consumption of unhealthy fats with metabolic disorders and increased cardiovascular risk.

Thus, limiting the saturated fats and trans fat you consume is an important step. As a result, you contribute to lowering your blood cholesterol levels and lowering your risk of artery diseases.

High blood cholesterol levels can lead to a build-up of fat in your arteries, called “atherosclerosis”, which can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack and stroke.

This article may interest you: The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle on Your Heart

Choose whole grains, another of the foods for cardiovascular health

Whole grains are a good source of fiber and other nutrients that play an important role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. To increase the amount of whole grains you consume in a heart-healthy diet, substitute refined-grain products.

Choose low-fat protein sources

A few sources of omega-3 fatty acids, one of the recommended foods for cardiovascular health.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial cardioprotective properties.

Choose lower-fat options, such as low-fat milk instead of whole milk and skinless chicken breasts instead of fried foods.

Fish is another excellent alternative to replace high-fat meats. Certain types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have a positive cardiovascular effect. Coldwater fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are the richest in omega-3 fatty acids.

Finally, remember that, in addition to your diet, daily physical activity and the avoidance of bad habits also play a fundamental role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

  • The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations [citado 17 May 2014]. Disponible en: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp.
  • Threapleton DE, Greenwood DC, Evand CEL, Cleghorn CL, Nykiaer C, Woodhead C, et al.Dietary fiber intake and risk of first stroke. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Stroke.2013;44:1360-8.
  • Eilat-Adar S, Sinai T, Yosefy C, Henkin Y. Nutritional recommendations for cardiovascular disease prevention. Nutrients. 2013;5:3646-83.