Four Foods for a Healthy Heart
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Food As Medicine: Four Foods for a Healthy Heart

Smart food choices to keep this most-important organ pumping without skipping a beat.

By Kimberly Lord Stewart

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When we think of matters of the heart, it’s often around love and heartache. But when you get to the heart of it, this central organ is supported by your circulatory system. Science points to some everyday foods and supplements that benefit your heart.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends foods abundant in healthy fats—such as nuts, seeds and fatty fish—as well as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to keep blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range. Beyond that, the following
specific foods can enhance heart health.

tomato juiceTomato Juice

A primary heart-disease contributor is damage to the lining of the vascular system. This may occur from uncontrolled blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol. A recent study shows that a daily glass of unsalted tomato juice could diminish both of these risk factors. When study participants drank a daily 6.7 ounces (200 milliliters) of unsalted tomato juice for one year, a majority saw significantly lower blood pressure. Heart-damaging LDL cholesterol levels also decreased from an average of 155 to 149.9 mg/dL.

Gooseberries

These bright and tasty berries come in a variety of colors: green, light yellow, pink, red and even dark purple. They can be tart or sweet, but above all, they are packed with nutrients that are good for your heart. Gooseberries are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing in your blood. They also contain substantial amounts of potassium, which improves blood-vessel health and helps maintain a regular heartbeat.

jackfruitJackfruit

This Asian tropical fruit—a relative of the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family—continues to pop up in stores and in packaged meals as a meat replacement. As plant-based foods gain more attention, this one is stellar for high fiber and potassium. In its green form, the fruit makes an excellent replacement for meat in dishes like tacos, enchiladas and pulled pork. When it comes to heart health, jackfruit contains potassium, which helps the body decrease blood pressure and aids in the function of the heart and circulatory system. The AHA says healthy adults should get 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day—raw jackfruit contains 739 milligrams per cup. Emerging research also shows that jackfruit may reduce LDL cholesterol.

Fish or Fish Oil Supplements

Yes, eat more fish. It’s common advice for heart health. But how much, and are supplements beneficial? The AHA recommends eating 8 ounces per week to reduce risk of congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. If eating fish is not possible, a recent large population study shows that when people take fish-oil dietary supplements regularly, heart-disease risk also lowers significantly. Check with your doctor on dose and whether this is the best option for your health.

To learn more about the health benefits of eating plant-based foods read “Eat Yourself Healthy on a Plant-Based Diet.”

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