11 Nutrients for a Healthier Heart (and where to find them)

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, 5 people have heart attacks and 10 people have strokes every single hour. If that’s not scary enough, of those 15 events on average 10 people will actually die from them.

 

On a more positive note, what you eat plays an enormous role in the health of your heart, and can influence your risk for heart disease.

 

Here are 11 important nutrients that you should be eating regularly to maximize the health of your heart:

 

 

  1. Folate

As one of the B vitamins, folate serves heart health by working to maintain a healthy level of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid, and elevated levels are associated with a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and vascular disease.

 

Where to find it: dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and Romaine lettuce.

 

  1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant nutrient. Functioning as an energy producer in every cell of our body, CoQ10 is particularly abundant in heart muscle. In an analysis of twelve clinical trials it was shown that CoQ10 reduces blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Furthermore, prescription medications to lower cholesterol (statins) deplete CoQ10 levels. If you are taking statins, it is imperative that you supplement with CoQ10 to counter this depletion.

 

Where to find it: beef, organ meats such as liver, soy oil, sardines and mackerel. However, the amount found in these foods is relatively low, so a supplement is necessary if you are taking statins.

 

  1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids have been extensively studied for their benefits to heart health. Regular consumption of omega 3 has been associated with lower blood pressure levels, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar. Supplemental omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to improve arterial function, reduce blood pressure and lower triglycerides.

 

Where to find them: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna, OR supplemental salmon oil, krill oil or algae oil.

 

  1. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is important for proper blood clotting, and also serves to protect your arteries. A higher intake of foods rich in vitamin K reduces your risk for heart disease.

 

Where to find it: dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and Romaine lettuce.

 

  1. Quercetin

This plant-derived flavonoid is a natural anti-inflammatory. Consumption of quercetin also helps to prevent blood clots.

 

Where to find it: apples are a great natural source. So an apple a day may in fact keep the doctor away!

 

  1. Fiber

Fiber is the roughage in foods such as whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Multiple studies have found that regular consumption of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains can greatly benefit your heart. Fiber may help to decrease LDL cholesterol levels, which in turn helps to decrease the risk of heart disease. Consumption of fiber-rich foods decreases blood pressure, as well as risk for stroke.

 

Where to find it: whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables.

 

  1. L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is in almost all of the cells in our body. It is important for a healthy cholesterol level. L-carnitine serves the heart muscle by aiding in the breakdown of fats for energy. When given immediately after a heart attack, studies have shown that l-carnitine improves recovery.

 

Where to find it: avocado, animal protein, and fermented soy foods.

 

  1. Lycopene

Lycopene is the main antioxidant in tomatoes and is responsible for their brilliant red color. This nutrient has been associated with a reduced risk for heart disease. Lycopene reduces blood pressure, as well as c-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a marker of inflammation, and if elevated is a risk factor for heart disease.

 

Where to find it: tomatoes.

 

  1. Magnesium

Every single organ in the body needs magnesium to function properly, especially the heart. Magnesium is important for a regular heartbeat and is used as part of the treatment for heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Studies have shown that Magnesium also reduces blood pressure.

 

Where to find it: walnuts, spinach, dark chocolate, quinoa, black beans, whole wheat flour and edamame.

 

  1. Polyphenols

Polyphenols are found in abundance in brightly colored berries. They help to reduce blood pressure through increasing nitric oxide production, which causes blood vessels to relax and dilate. A cup of mixed berries daily increases blood HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol).

 

Where to find them: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.

 

  1. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is one of the main reasons why a glass of red wine has been touted as good for the heart. This nutrient aids in the prevention of blood clots, enhances antioxidant and nitric oxide production, and lowers blood pressure.

 

Where to find it: dark chocolate and red wine. However, these foods that are “rich” in resveratrol still provide relatively low amounts and supplements may be necessary.

 

Final Thoughts

These 11 heart-healthy nutrients benefit all areas of your health, and should be ingested regardless of whether your heart is under strain. These nutrients will be even more potent when combined with frequent exercise, low (or managed) levels of stress, and a smoke-free lifestyle.

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