Albanians are not as young at heart as they think they are. High blood pressure, obesity, smoking and diabetes make the heart older than you by becoming a barely-ticking time bomb.
But there are easy ways to separate yourself from the pack and turn back the clock on your heart. In fact, according to a recent study more than 50 percent of all heart attack deaths can be prevented with a handful of dietary changes. So take your heart health into your own hands. Based on recent studies, AgroWeb.org has identified the absolute best foods to dramatically turn back the clock on your heart, while dropping pounds and protecting yourself from diabetes, as well.
#1: Dark Chocolate
Great news, chocoholics: Dozens of studies show that people who consume cocoa—as a hot drink or eaten as dark chocolate—are in much better cardiovascular shape than those who don’t. One nine-year study found women who ate one to two servings of high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure than those who said no to the cocoa. And a second long-term study found that men who ate the most chocolate–about 1/3 of a cup of dark chocolate chips per week–had a 17 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to those who didn’t consume chocolate. Researchers attribute cocoa’s health benefits to polyphenols and flavanols, anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect the heart. The most healthful dark chocolate contains 74 percent or more cocoa solids, but if you’re serious about a healthier heart, don’t buy anything under 60 percent cacao.
The bean pods are a great anytime snack because they’re an excellent source of magnesium, folate and potassium. These nutrients can help lower blood pressure and support heart health, reducing your risk for heart disease. Fiber protects the heart by boosting the body’s ability to produce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors, which act like bouncers, pulling “bad” cholesterol out of the blood. And beans are an excellent source. Researchers have analyzed a number of studies and found that risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for every 7 grams of fiber consumed.
Eating tomatoes is good news, researchers say, because tomatoes are particularly rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that, unlike most nutrients in fresh produce, increases after cooking and processing. Dozens of studies suggest a relationship between regular intake of lycopene-rich tomatoes and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, skin damage and certain cancers.
Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of giving us a hint: Heart-shaped walnuts are brimming in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease—an umbrella term that refers to a number of deadly complications. Consuming just one ounce of walnuts five or more times a week—about a handful every day—can slash heart disease risk by nearly 40 percent!
A mere tablespoon of these ultra-powerful seeds serves up nearly three grams of belly-filling fiber for just 55 calories. We like that ratio. Not to mention, flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation, ward off mood swings and help prevent heart disease and diabetes. A diet of heart-healthy fats, like those found in flax seeds, raises good HDL cholesterol levels.
#6: Sprouted Garlic
“Sprouted” garlic—old garlic bulbs with bright green shoots emerging from the cloves—usually ends up in the garbage. But scientists report that this type of garlic has even more heart-healthy antioxidant activity than the fresh stuff. Aged garlic extract, also known as kyolic garlic or A.G.E. is a popular supplement, because it’s odorless (let the kissing commence!). A study found that participants who took four pills a day saw a reduction in plaque buildup in the arteries.
A study of more than 2,000 adults revealed that those who consume just 2 percent of their total daily calories from yogurt—that would be like eating one cup of yogurt every three days—have a 31 percent lower incidence of hypertension than those who eat the creamy stuff less often. And another study found that each weekly serving of yogurt was associated with a 6 percent reduction in one’s risk of hypertension. It goes back to those two essential nutrients, vitamin D and calcium. And some yogurts also carry a nice dose of potassium, a proven blood-pressure reducer.
#8: Sweet Potatoes
The king of slow carbs (meaning they’re digested slowly and keep you feeling fuller and energized longer), sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and nutrients and can help you burn fat. The magic ingredient here are carotenoids, antioxidants which stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which prevents calories from being converted into fat. That means they reduce your risk of diabetes, one of the greatest threats to your heart. And their high vitamin profile (including A, C and B6) give you more energy to burn at the gym.
#9: Boiled Peanuts
Boiled peanuts are boiled in the shell, and the resveratrol is found in that bitter red papery skin that we normally toss when we eat raw peanuts. Boiled peanuts also have fewer calories and less fat than raw or dry roasted peanuts. Nuts are a great source of fiber and healthy fat, which can help fight inflammation in the body and also promote digestion./AgroWeb.org