February is American Heart Month!
What a great time to talk about the types of foods and supplements that can improve heart health. Of course, there is no “one-size fits all” approach to health and wellness. Everyone has different needs and a personalized approach with a team of healthcare professionals is recommended. Remember, also, that a balanced and varied diet is the best way to consume nutrient-dense foods and achieve better health and wellness. There are some nutrient-dense, functional foods that contribute to our heart health, and some of these foods you will see again and again.
Foods like Omega-3 fatty acids help with our heart health! The Standard American or Western diet is usually heavy on Omega-6 fatty acids, but lacking in Omega-3s, with a ratio of up to 25:1! An ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is 2:1 or 1:1. To increase Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, it is important to consume foods like oily fish: Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, and Herring. A handful of nuts or seeds (like chia seeds, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts) have Omega-3 fatty acids and are nutrient-dense foods that contribute to heat health as well. There are also Omega 3 supplements available, if fish, seeds, and nuts are just not your thing. If you want to know more, I have an early post all about Omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamin D is important for heart health, too! Our bodies can make vitamin D from sunshine, but that can be difficult to do in the winter or in northern regions. Foods like mushrooms, eggs, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, or tuna contain good levels of Vitamin D. However, most people are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are available, and it is recommended to have a Vitamin D supplement that also contains Vitamin K2. Vitamin D with K2 help to protect against cardiovascular calcification (otherwise known as “hardening of the arteries”). There are also some foods that contain or help promote the production of Vitamin K in the microbiome. Some of those foods include dark, leafy greens (kale, turnip greens, spinach), broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, butter, oats, whole wheat (if you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, wheat is not your friend), green beans or eggs.
Magnesium is another important micronutrient that is associated with heart health. Foods containing magnesium are pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, quinoa, hazelnuts, pine nuts, brown rice, buckwheat, okra, and brewer’s yeast. Potassium can also help with heart health. Potassium does not usually need to be supplemented unless you take a medication that depletes potassium, like a diuretic. Some foods containing potassium include potatoes, legumes, leafy greens, bananas, and avocados.
Coenzyme Q10 is also important for heart health. Food such as anchovies, broccoli, cauliflower, mackerel, nuts, pork, salmon, sardines, spinach, and legumes contain CoQ10. Folate is another important vitamin for heart health. Legumes, asparagus, eggs, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, brussels sprouts, almonds, and broccoli are great sources of folate. As I mentioned in a previous post, some people, like myself, are not able to convert folate or folic acid into its active form because of genetic changes in their methylation pathway. A simple blood test can be used to determine if the methylation pathway is compromised due to a change in the MTHFR gene.
Some specific foods such as pomegranate, garlic, ginger, and turmeric are also good for heart health. Pomegranate has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce plaque formation, and enhance nitric oxide. Nitrate and nitric oxide increase blood flow, relax blood vessels, decrease blood pressure, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods such as arugula, cabbage, garlic, and beets contain nitrates. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.
So, increasing the variety of foods in your daily diet and including some of these foods can help keep your heart healthy! Incorporating exercise, reducing processed foods, refined flours and sugars, as well as reducing salt intake also keep the heart beating. Food is medicine!
Are you ready to pivot to functional health and wellness? Let me know how I can help you reach your wellness goals!