Best Anti-inflammatory Foods For Your Heart

June 15, 2021

Best Anti-inflammatory Foods For Your Heart

Inflammation is an indispensable part of your body’s defense mechanism. It is part of your immune system’s response to minimize injury or infection by chemicals, toxins, and harmful microorganisms. Hence, the inflammatory process is helpful and will naturally resolve once your cells and tissues have healed. [1


However, when your body fails to control inflammation, it may persist long-term. This is harmful as persistent low levels of inflammation can affect the functioning of your blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke or heart attacks. [2,3


Inflammation can promote the buildup of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This plaque may loosen or rupture trigger blood clots formation. This hazardous occurrence can lead to fatal outcomes as blood clots can block blood flow to your heart and brain. [2,3


If the blood supply to the heart is affected, this leads to heart attacks. Blocked blood vessels inside or leading to the brain will cause strokes. Both heart attacks and strokes can result in death or permanent loss of function. [2


A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and stroke. [3] Let’s explore the best anti-inflammatory foods you can include in your daily meals for a healthier heart and a healthier you! 


Fatty fish 

Not everyone is a die-hard fan of seafood, but fatty fishes such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fishes contain the healthy omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). [4,5


DHA and EPA can regulate inflammation in the body. They may decrease the levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood), reduce plaque formation in your arteries, lower blood pressure, and help manage high cholesterol. Hence, increasing the consumption of fatty fishes may lower your risk of heart diseases! [4,5


To decrease your chances of getting a heart disease or stroke, the National Heart Foundation recommends 250-500mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day. You can achieve this by eating a combination of omega-3 rich foods each day and consuming approximately 2-3 servings of fish per week. However, you should be cautious of your mercury intake and avoid fishes high in mercury, such as the southern bluefin tuna. [6]


Broccoli 

Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse packed with sulforaphane, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties! [7] Additionally, broccoli is rich in vitamins and minerals essential for good health. Studies have shown that increasing the intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli can reduce cardiovascular disease risk and death due to heart diseases. [8


You can eat the leaves and stem of the broccoli, but some people prefer eating the florets only. The stalk of the broccoli is full of fiber, while the leaves contain substantial amounts of vitamin E and K and calcium. If you want to reap the full nutritional benefits of adding broccoli into your meal, it is best not to boil the broccoli. Boiling can eliminate up to 90% of its wholesome goodness and nutrients. Instead, roast, steam, or sauté it with olive oil. [9]  


However, if you are on blood-thinning medications or have chronic kidney disease, then you may need to avoid taking too much broccoli. Consult your healthcare provider for advice. 


Berries 

Thanks to these powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins, berries can reduce inflammation in healthy people and those with certain chronic diseases. Anthocyanins are responsible for the vibrant and distinctive colors of different berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. [10] Berries are also a delicious fruity source of micronutrients and fiber!


Studies have associated increased consumption of berries with subsiding inflammation and risk of heart diseases. Hence, berries are now emerging as an excellent dietary source of nutrients that may decrease blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and cholesterol. [11


There’s no doubt that berries are a formidable candidate when it comes to protecting the health of your heart! If you wish to include them in your diet, opt for fresh or frozen whole berries whenever possible. Processing methods such as drying or pasteurization can diminish the precious nutritional value of berries, so berry juices or extracts may not be as nourishing compared to fresh succulent berries! [11


Tomatoes 

Labeled as a nutrient-dense superfood, you can incorporate this versatile ingredient into various types of cuisines! The nutritional benefits that stem from consuming tomatoes should not be undermined. They are packed with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and lycopene, a compound with impressive anti-inflammatory effects. [12,13]. 


Tomatoes are an outstanding source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Thus, tomatoes are a valuable part of a heart-healthy diet. [12] The lycopene in tomatoes is even said to have anti-cancer properties! [13


You can add raw tomatoes to your sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Besides that, add tomatoes in soups, sauces for pasta, tacos, or omelets for healthier and more wholesome meals.  


Without a doubt, the processing and cooking procedure determines the nutritional value of the end product. Some studies have shown that processed tomatoes, as well as those sautéed in olive oil, may increase the absorption of lycopene. [14] Nevertheless, adding tomatoes to any of your favorite dishes may assist in preserving your heart’s health! 


Nuts

Nuts are a convenient and delicious snack that can substitute less-healthy ones if you’ve made diet plans. It’s tempting to grab a pack when you walk down a supermarket aisle and come face-to-face with processed nuts coated in sugar, honey, salt, or artificial flavorings. As delicious as those are, they may not be half as healthy as those raw unsalted ones. [15


Even then, it would be best if you didn’t snack on those mindlessly. Even raw ones can pack a punch when it comes to calories. Thus, consume them in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of nuts per week, and one serving is approximately a small handful of whole nuts. [16


Generally, all nuts can be healthy, but walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts appear to be the better choices. The most crucial thing is to avoid canceling out their benefits by selecting those coated with sugar, salt, chocolate, or honey! [16


What can nuts do for your heart? Studies have discovered that consumption of certain nuts is linked to reduced cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Research suggests that eating nuts can bring about these benefits due to several possible reasons. Consuming nuts may decrease bad cholesterol, improve the functioning of your arteries, lower inflammation, and reduce the risk of blood clot formation that can result in stroke or heart attacks. [16,17


Mushrooms

Mushrooms are another natural source of potent anti-inflammatory agents. In fact, people have been using mushrooms for nutritional and medicinal purposes for centuries. [18


Though thousands of species of mushrooms can be sourced worldwide, only a few are edible. These are rich sources of various nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and essential minerals and vitamins. [18] The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds present in mushrooms may reduce bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition where your arteries harden and stiffen. 


One study has shown that heat can significantly abolish the anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms. Hence, the best way to eat them is either raw or lightly cooked. [19] Mushrooms are yet another versatile ingredients that can be assimilated into various dishes! You can sauté or stir-fry them, top your salad with raw mushrooms, add sliced ones to toast or omelets or add lightly-grilled mushrooms to your sandwiches and wraps. 


Virgin olive oil 

Olive oil is well-known for its powerful cardioprotective effects. Studies discovered that consuming half a tablespoon of olive oil daily can reduce your risk of heart disease by 15%. [20] That’s because olive oil contains phenolic compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Hence, incorporating olive oil into your daily diet is a practical way to combat inflammation and reduce your risk of atherosclerosis.[21


Extra virgin olive oil is likely to provide more benefits in battling inflammation than olive oils that have been more refined or processed. [22


You can drizzle some olive oil over your salad instead of using mayonnaise or salad dressings that have a sky-high amount of fats and calories! Alternatively, you may drizzle some onto your toast instead of slathering on less healthy fats like butter or margarine. 


In addition to that, you can opt for olive oil when cooking or sautéing. Sautéing certain foods like tomatoes in olive oil may enhance the nutritional benefits of those foods! [14]


Turmeric

Turmeric is the spice that gives foods like curries their signature yellow color. This spice contains a unique compound called curcumin, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects so powerful that it can match anti-inflammatory drugs! Due to its ability to reduce inflammation, it can assist in the management of atherosclerosis and high cholesterol. [23 24


Sadly, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, but consuming it with some black pepper may help to increase its absorption by 2000%! [24


Turmeric does come in supplement form, and the recommended dose is 500mg twice a day with food. [25] If you’re not eager to commit to a new supplement, you can still reap some benefits by adding turmeric powder into smoothies, soups, curries, roasted vegetables, and scrambled eggs. 


Conclusion 


Anti-inflammatory foods may help to improve the health and functioning of your cardiovascular system. Plus, your diet has a significant impact on your heart’s health and your general wellbeing as a whole. 


You may be eager to make a drastic change and entirely swap out your current diet for a healthier one. That enthusiasm is commendable, but it is best to consult your healthcare professional before making any sudden and extreme changes to your diet. 


If you are taking any medications or have any medical conditions, do let your healthcare professional know. With this information, they can tailor their advice to suit your situation and guide you on adopting the safest yet most effective diet plan for a healthier heart!


This article is a guide and does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare provider. 



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