Healthy eating is associated with managing weight, but it has a far more important role to play in overall well-being. Diet plays a vital role in fighting a number of serious diseases. It’s often assumed that conditions such as dementia and heart disease are either genetic or a part of the aging process, but research now shows that dietary factors are just as important.
Nutritious food can be more powerful than pills when it comes to heart health in particular. The heart is a complex organ, and it needs exercise and good nutrition to function properly. Recent studies prove how resilient the heart can be, and there’s strong evidence that some conditions can be reversed by switching to a healthier lifestyle.
The following ingredients can help you eat your way to a healthier heart:
- Fiber. Including fiber in your diet is recognized for benefits to the digestive systems, but it also plays an important role in protecting your heart. Soluble fiber can reduce levels of cholesterol by binding with cholesterol particles and removing them from the body. There is a direct link between high cholesterol and heart disease, so a diet rich in fiber can reduce the risks of the number one cause of death in the United States.
Fiber can also reduce the risks of strokes and diabetes, and both these are linked to heart disease. Fiber-rich whole grains, such as wheat and oats, reduce blood pressure and the likelihood of coronary artery disease affecting blood supply to heart.
- Quality fats. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the amount and type of fats that should form part of a balanced diet. Low-fat diets explain why fat is often seen as something to avoid, but the reality is more complicated. Quality fats can help to improve your cholesterol profile, and this means a healthier heart. Rather than focusing on saturated and unsaturated, look for sources of fat from plant-based sources. Examples include almonds, avocado and aubergines. Fats from animal products, such as lean meat and dairy, should be eaten less frequently.
- Potassium and magnesium. Minerals play a key part in regulating systems within the body, including blood pressure and nerve function. Magnesium helps blood vessels to relax, so there’s less strain on the heart to keep blood flowing. Potassium helps to keep the heart’s rhythm at a healthy level, and low levels can lead irregular heartbeat problems. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is the best way to ensure your body has a constant supply of potassium, magnesium and other minerals.
- A rainbow of colors. At the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, our nutritionists recommend eating a diet containing a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables. This helps to ensure the body receives different types of nourishing micronutrients. Red and purple foods are particularly good for you, so eat berries, grapes, red cabbage and beetroot as often as possible. The natural chemicals in a rainbow diet can relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure, helping to maintain a healthy heart.
- Fish containing Omega-3. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat fish containing Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risks of a heart attack. Studies suggest that as little as two portions a week can make a big difference. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fats believed to reduce inflammation in the body. Tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel are rich in Omega-3, but most types of seafood contain these healthy fats.
Medical professionals are increasingly suggesting changes in diet rather than prescribing drugs. Scientific data shows that dietary factors play an important role in heart health, and that serious illnesses can be avoided by committing to healthier eating.