WHMC Blog

Three Heart Healthy Ingredients

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease accounts for over 17.3 million deaths per year around the globe, making it the leading cause of death worldwide. The number of yearly deaths due to cardiovascular disease is projected to grow in upcoming years. Each day, nearly 2,200 Americans die from some variation of heart disease or stroke. With cardiovascular disease as a real threat to healthy living around the world, it’s worth taking the time to research simple changes to make in your lifestyle that can help improve health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Diet can drastically impact your risk for cardiovascular disease. A diet that is high in sugar, junk food, and processed ingredients is more likely to contribute to heart disease than one that is high in vitamins, healthy fats, and other nutrients. To help get you started on your journey to a heart-healthy future, we’ve listed three ingredients that can easily be incorporated into any diet. Olive oil, whole grains, and nuts and seeds can easily substitute unhealthy oils, refined grains, and junk snacks—with immediate benefits to your heart!

1. Olive Oil

For many, chronic inflammation is believed to be the causes of numerous diseases. Extra-virgin olive oil is known to contain healthy fats and anti-inflammatory substances. In addition, olive oil is high in antioxidants. All these components make olive oil a beneficial addition to any diet. It can be used for sautéing, in recipes that call for oil, or even as a base for salad dressing.

Extra virgin olive oil is known to protect the heart against disease via the following:

  • Reduced Inflammation: Olive oil contains oleic acid and antioxidants, both which have been studied to reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease.
  • Blood Clot Prevention: It is suggested that the chance for blood clots can be prevented or lessened by a healthy amount of olive oil present in a person’s diet.
  • Lower Blood Pressure: Varying studies have shown that olive oil significantly reduces blood pressure, thereby reducing the need for blood pressure medications as well.
  • Improved Endothelial Function: The endothelium, the lining of the blood vessels, can be improved by the consumption of olive oil.

Choosing quality olive oil is key to receiving its full nutrients and benefits. Extra virgin olive oil that has not been diluted with other oils or less-quality oil will yield more benefits to your cardiovascular system than oils that are diluted by canola oil, soybean oil, or other oils. Check the label to ensure quality.

2. Whole Grains

A whole grain contains all parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. These have greater nutrients than refined grains and are a better source of fiber. The American Heart Association suggests eating six to eight servings of whole grains per day. Instead of eating as much white, refined bread, rice and pasta, branch out into the realm of whole grains and try these heart healthy options.

Some examples of heart-healthy whole grains include the following:

  • Oats
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Wheat
  • Couscous
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa

Whole grains can help prevent constipation, control blood sugar and cholesterol, and help you feel full so that you eat less. Measured, regular consumption can keep your heart healthy.

#3 Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are an easy snack to store. Keeping them in the fridge at home or at work will extend their shelf life and provide you with healthy snacking options that don’t require any preparation. Replacing carb-loaded junk snacks with nuts can significantly benefit your heart health. Nuts and seeds are a great addition to salads, snack mixes, and even protein shakes!

Nuts are heart healthy because they contain these nutrients:

  • Unsaturated Fats: These are a “good” fat and suspected to lower bad cholesterol levels.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These can prevent heart attacks and promote healthy heart rhythms.
  • Fiber: This can help you feel fuller, lower cholesterol, and prevent diabetes.
  • Vitamin E: This can slow and stop plaque development in your arteries, preventing heart attack.
  • Plant Sterols: This substance can help lower cholesterol.
  • L-arginine: This can make your artery’s walls more flexible and less prone to blood clots.

Some of the healthiest nuts and seeds are macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Before you overdo the nuts, however, remember to eat them in moderation with healthy fats. Their high protein content can be too much for your system.

Starting Small Can Make a Difference for Heart Health

As you make these changes, remember to check in with your doctor for help in managing blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases. Simple changes, like incorporating these three heart-healthy ingredients into your diet, can make huge differences in your health and wellness.

If you would like more information about Whittier Hospital Medical Center, their cardiology program, or more, contact us today! We look forward to caring for your needs and concerns.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.