It was Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And what better time than during American Heart Month to take that advice to… ahem, heart? Studies have shown that adding certain foods to your diet may promote healthy cardiovascular function and help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Here are five heart-smart helpers to add to your daily diet:
- Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas): In addition to being chock full of vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and antioxidants, chickpeas are high in dietary fiber, which has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. A recent study published in the Journal of The American Dietetic Association found that healthy adults who consumed about 3 cups of chickpeas each week reduced their serum total cholesterol by 15.8 mg.
- Açaí Berries: Scientists in Rio de Janeiro recently examined the effects of açaí berry extract on heart attack survivors and determined that it helped improve recovery and restore healthy heart function. Not only that, but it helped reverse the damage inflicted by the heart attack. The natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of açaí also support the circulatory system health and help maintain optimal blood pressure levels.
- Blueberries: Researchers from Florida State University recently determined that adding blueberries to your daily diet may play an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure and preventing heart disease. Just a cup of fresh berries daily was shown to improve blood pressure and reduce arterial stiffness in study participants—both of which are important for preventing the progression of heart disease. Like açaí berries, blueberries are high in beneficial antioxidants.
- Olive Oil: Making olive oil a part of your daily diet is good for your heart, according to a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A team of European researchers determined that the combination of beneficial fatty acids and phenols—natural plant compounds—found in olives can improve heart health and help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.
- Tomatoes: Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that gives the tomato its red color, and according to researchers at Cambridge University it’s what makes it such a heart-friendly fruit. Lycopene helps protect and strengthen the lining of the arteries to decrease the risk of blockage, which in turn helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. In a study involving patients with heart disease taking medication to lower cholesterol, those who also received lycopene showed increased blood flow.