The foods you eat bring pleasure to your palate and provide your body with powerful healing substances. Most people probably never consider that their morning grapefruit protects their blood vessels or that eating a handful of raw almonds daily can protect them from cancer. Certain heart-healthy foods have a reputation as natural cures to lower blood pressure, reduce symptoms of plaque and improve cardio fitness.
Animal proteinsAnimal proteins like fresh fish and seafood are high in omega 3 oils, monounsaturated fats and calcium; all of these are helpful in reducing the risk of heart attack and managing high blood pressure problems.
Dr. Liz Applegate, a nationally renowned expert on nutrition and fitness, has created a list of 22 heart-smart foods including clams and salmon, two animal proteins low in fat and calories and high in omega 3 oils and sterols. Clams, in particular, help the body resist the symptoms of plaque buildup. Salmon is high in monounsaturated fats and calcium, both helpful in keeping cholesterol plaque at bay and reducing the risk of heart attack.
Olive oilStudies of women with high blood pressure who were placed on a diet rich in olive oil for one month showed a marked reduction in their blood pressure levels.
Raw milk cheeseResearch indicates that people who have adequate calcium consumption tend to have more luck controlling their blood pressure levels. Raw milk cheeses are high in calcium and low in sodium, making them an excellent food to help with high blood pressure problems.
VegetablesCorn is an excellent source of folic acid and vitamin B, which protect the arteries and reduce artherosclerosis.
Onions and avocados prevent LDL or bad cholesterol from damaging blood vessel walls.
Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a potent antioxidant that has produced significant results in lowering blood pressure in patients participating in an Israeli study conducted in 2006.
Garlic's natural anti-inflammatory properties may prevent blood clots and improve overall cardio fitness.
Celery is high in vital nutrients and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium, all necessary components in foods that lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack. Eating the entire plant benefits the cardiovascular system.
Choose only organic vegetables and fruits to avoid pesticides and hidden genetically modified plants that may not benefit your heart or your health.
Fresh fruitsLoaded with pectin, a natural fiber that binds to cholesterol and toxins in the blood, apples can clear the blood and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels as much as 10 percent over a six-week period, notes Applegate.
Oranges and lemons are high in potassium and fruit pectin. Both aid the body's regulation of blood pressure and reduce cholesterol plaque from arteries.
Grapefruit supplies vitamin C, pectin, folic acid and lycopene, which help prevent symptoms of plaque by flushing LDL cholesterol from arteries and lessen high blood pressure problems.
Beans, legumes and whole grainsBoth soluble and insoluble fiber are important for maintaining arterial integrity and controlling high blood pressure problems. Most beans provide soluble fiber, which is high in vitamin B and folic acid helping to reduce plaque and lower blood pressure. Whole grains like oats and oat bran flush unhealthy plaque from the system further protecting against the risk of heart attack and improving cardio fitness.
ChocolateAbout 1/2 oz. of dark chocolate daily protects the heart and maintains blood pressure at normal levels. Rich in phenols, chocolate is now on the heart-smart menu for its nutrient-rich contribution that keeps arteries healthy.
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