In my previous post What to Eat for a Healthy Heart I discussed what general diet and lifestyle choices are beneficial for cardiovascular heath. To help you decide which foods you should be adding to your plate (in addition to the ones mentioned in my previous post) this post looks at how nutrients can contribute to heart health.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that prevents oxidation of fats (cholesterol). Eating foods high in Vitamin E has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease.1
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN E:
- sunflower seeds (1/4 cup has 82% of DRI**)
- almonds (1/4 cup has 40% DRI)
- spinach (1 cup has 25% DRI)
- swiss chard (1 cup has 22% DRI)
- avocado (1 cup has 21% DRI)
- peanuts (1/4 cup has 20% DRI)
**Daily Recommended intake according to the US National Institute of Health
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that may help to slow the progression of atherosclerosis by reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a key contributor to the development of arterial plaques.2
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN C:
- papaya (preferably organic to avoid GMOs, 1 medium has 224% DRI)
- bell peppers (1 cup has 157% DRI)
- broccoli (1 cup has 135% DRI)
- Brussels sprouts (1 cup has 129% DRI)
- Strawberries (1 cup has 113% DRI)
- Pineapple (1 cup has 105% DRI)
- Oranges (1 medium has 93% DRI)
- Kiwifruit (1 has 85% DRI)
- Cantaloupe (1 cup has 78% DRI)
- Cauliflower (1 cup has 73% DRI)
- Kale ( 1 cup has 71% DRI)
FOLATE AND VITAMIN B6
High dietary intake of folate and Vitamin B6 are associated with a decreased risk of mortality from coronary artery disease.3
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF FOLATE:
- lentils (1 cup has 90% DRI)
- pinto beans (1 cup has 74% DRI)
- garbanzo beans (chickpeas) (1 cup has 71% DRI)
- asparagus (1 cup has 67% DRI)
- spinach (1 cup has 66% DRI)
- navy beans (1 cup has 64% DRI)
- black beans (1 cup has 64% DRI)
- kidney beans (1 cup has 58% DRI)
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN B6:
- tuna (4 oz has 69% DRI)
- turkey (4 oz has 54% DRI)
- beef (4 oz has 44% DRI)
- chicken (4 oz has 40% DRI)
- salmon (4 oz has 38% DRI)
- sweet potato (1 cup has 34% DRI)
- potatoes (1 cup has 32% DRI)
- sunflower seeds (1/4 cup has 28% DRI)
- spinach (1 cup has 26% DRI)
Magnesium deficiency is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack), ventricular tachyarrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.4
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM:
- pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup has 45% DRI)
- spinach (1 cup has 37% DRI)
- swiss chard (1 cup has 36% DRI)
- soybeans (1 cup has 35% DRI) – preferably organic to avoid GMOs
- sesame seeds (1/4 cup has 30% DRI)
- black beans (1 cup has 29% DRI)
- quinoa (3/4 cup has 28% DRI)
- cashews (1/4 cup has 28% DRI)
- sunflower seeds (1/4 cup has 27% DRI)
High dietary potassium intake is associated with protection from cardiovascular disease and a reduction in blood pressure.5
BEST FOODS SOURCES FOR POTASSIUM:
- beet greens (1 cup has 28% DRI)
- lentils (1 cup has 21% DRI)
- sweet potato (1 cup has 20% DRI)
- swiss chard (1 cup has 20% DRI)
- potatoes (1 cup has 20% DRI)
- lima beans (1 cup has 20% DRI)
- prunes (1/2 cup has 20% DRI)
- spinach (1 cup has 18% DRI)
- acorn squash (1 cup has 18% DRI)
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF CHROMIUM:
- barley (1/3 cup has 23% DRI)
- oats (1/4 cup has 15% DRI)
- broccoli (1 cup has 9% DRI)
- green beans (1 cup has 6% DRI)
- tomatoes (1 cup has 4% DRI)
Studies have shown that supplementation with selenium reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in patients with coronary artery disease. However, supplementation with Selenium is generally not recommended in healthy people due to the potential for toxicity.
Increasing foods rich in selenium will help to improve selenium status within the body. Please see my blog post on Selenium for the best food sources.
Zinc protects the structural integrity of myocardial (heart) cells.7
BEST FOOD SOURCES OF ZINC:
- beef (4oz has 37% DRI)
- lamb (4oz has 35% DRI)
- sesame seeds (1/4 cup has (25% DRI)
- pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup has 23% DRI)
- lentils (1 cup has 23% DRI)
- garbanzo beans (chickpeas) (1 cup has 23% DRI)
- cashews (1/4 cup has 21% DRI)
- turkey (4oz has 18% DRI)
- quinoa (3/4 cup has 18% DRI)
7 Easy Ways to Add More of These Nutrients to Your Diet:
- Have 1-1.5 cups of baby spinach daily by using it as the base for a salad, adding it to smoothies or sauteing it lightly as a side dish.
- Have 1-2 Brazil nuts daily to get 100% of your Selenium requirements.
- Make a snack mix with 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup cashews, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup dried (preferably unsweetened) cranberries for added Vitamin C.
- Add sesame seeds to your salad dressings and use as a garnish for stir-fry, soups and stews.
- Make barley soup or barley pilaf as a side dish instead of rice or potatoes to add more chromium to your diet.
- Eat 1/3 – 1/2 cup of rolled oats for breakfast and use oat flour instead of wheat flour when baking muffins and cookies.
- Add lentils and quinoa to soups, stews and pasta sauces.
As with all dietary changes, treat it as an evolution by gradually adding more of these foods with heart healthy nutrients to your diet.
Also, eating while in a mindful, relaxed state rather than ‘on the go’ or with distractions (electronics for example) will help the body to better digest and absorb these important nutrients.
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Eat well, Feel well, Live well