Heart Friendly Food

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-19-2005
Heart Friendly Food
Sat, 12-31-2005 - 6:26pm
Heart Friendly Food

Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Traditionally, a low fat diet has been the prescription for heart health which causes many people to shrink away. Not anymore! The good news is there are many things you can add to your diet that can greatly improve your risk factors of heart disease. Heart disease results when plaque builds up inside the arterial walls, which causes a partial or complete obstruction of blood flow. This reduces flow of blood to heart and may result in angina. Angina is a sensation of discomfort, pain, burning or pressure, generally felt in the chest area.


Angina may be the first indication of heart disease. But many people with heart disease often get no warning signals, until they suffer a full heart attack. Chest pain should not been ignored, even when it is not permanent. During a heart attack, the supply of oxygen to heart is cut off, resulting in tissue death for a part of the heart muscle.


There are certain foods that lower cholesterol and thus the risk of heart disease. The following heart friendly foods are important for the health of your heart.


Apples: Drinking 12 ounces of apple juice or eating two whole apples a day is beneficial. Research has shown that phytochemicals in apples could help cut the risk of death from heart disease or stroke in half.


Onions: Eating half a raw onion a day raises HDL (good) cholesterol by an average of 25 percent in most people.


Legumes/Beans: One serving of dried beans/legumes a day can reduce cholesterol by up to 10%. The fiber and other compounds present in legumes and beans can lower cholesterol, blood clotting and improve blood-vessel function. These are also a great source of folate, which keeps homocysteine levels (an indicator of heart trouble), in check.


Oats: Eating about one-cup of cooked oatmeal a day significantly decreases blood cholesterol levels. Oats contain beta-glucans, a soluble fibe that is responsible for cholesterol reduction.


Walnuts: Eating walnuts can reduce your total cholesterol level by 12% and LDL cholesterol level by 16%. Walnuts contain a type of fat called linolenic acid, which lowers cholesterol and prevents blood clots.


Olive Oil, Canola Oil: Of all cooking oils, olive oil contains the largest proportion (77%) of monounsaturated fat and has powerful antioxidants, which lowers LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL levels.


Nuts:Although nuts aren't exactly low in calories or fat, they contain high levels of unsaturated fats that are known to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown eating about one ounce of nuts every day will reduce the risk of heart disease in the long run by 30% according to Frank Hu, MD, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Soy: Soy has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Using soy on a weekly basis is a great step towards protecting your heart. If you are not a tofu fan, try soy milk or yogurt, garden burgers, edamme (soy beans), or soy sausage patties. There are all kinds of ways to include soy in your diet!


Hot Cocoa: Yes you read right! Cocoa contains high levels of flavonoids which are a class of phytochemicals known to help prevent heart disease. Researchers have found that hot cocoa has more disease-fighting antioxidants than tea or red wine and the heat may help propel them into the bloodstream. Hot cocoa is also much lower in saturated fats than other chocolate sources such as candy bars.


Beans and Lentils: including kidney beans, peas, black beans, etc. ---are high in both soluble fiber and folic acid to help lower cholesterol and decrease homocysteine levels (high homocysteine levels are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease).


Broccoli: A powerful antioxidant found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts may help protect the heart from high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. A new study shows the compound, called glucoraphanin, helped improve heart health, fight inflammation, and boost natural defense systems against oxidative stress.


Grape juice: The flavonoids in grape juice, like that in wine, have been shown to prevent the oxidation of so-called bad cholesterol (LDLs, or low-density lipoproteins) that leads to formation of plaque in artery walls. Grape juice can also lower the risk of developing the blood clots that lead to heart attacks.




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