In world, every fourth death is due to a diseased heart. But with the right diet, you can protect your pump. Sounds good, right? But what is good for the heart? Find out here which heart-strengthening foods should not be missing from your menu and what you should avoid.
Cardiovascular diseases are widespread, and one in four deaths is caused by a diseased heart: coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack, and heart failure (heart failure) lead the statistics.
The main cause is vascular calcification, also known medically as arteriosclerosis: Over the years, cholesterol and other components of the blood build up unnoticed in the vessel wall. This causes plaques to form that obstruct or block blood flow.
Arteriosclerosis is promoted by genetic factors, lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and lipid metabolism disorders , especially high LDL cholesterol levels. But the good thing is that you can get many of these risk factors under control with a healthy diet, even in middle age and old age.
What is good for the heart?
Choosing the right food is particularly important for a healthy heart because it can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. The Mediterranean diet is particularly suitable for this. It is based on a diet that was typical of Mediterranean countries in the 1950s and 1960s: little meat, but lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grain products, olive oil, fish, and moderate amounts of dairy products and eggs.
In addition, the heart-healthy diet is expanded to include another aspect: fat quality. Unhealthy dietary fats include saturated fatty acids (e.g., in butter, cheese, and sausage), cholesterol (e.g., in eggs, seafood, cheese, and sausage), and trans fats (e.g., in fries, potato chips, lard cakes, and fast food). They can increase LDL cholesterol and, thus, the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is therefore important to consume fewer unhealthy dietary fats and more unsaturated fatty acids. Whether monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, they lower LDL cholesterol and are often found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, kernels, and fatty sea fish.
What strengthens the heart?
There are a number of foods that keep the heart healthy. This is our top 7:
- Fresh vegetables
Serve three portions of vegetables every day; the selection should be colorful and varied. In this way, you get lots of secondary plant substances, minerals, and vitamins for the heart, including vitamins C and E. They slow down inflammatory processes that contribute significantly to the development of arteriosclerosis.
- Fatty sea fish
Sea creatures such as herring, salmon, and mackerel score highly in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol levels, inhibit inflammation, and thus protect the vessels. If you don’t like fish, you can use algae oil instead. It also has two powerful substances in its luggage.
What makes the grain product special is its high proportion of beta-glucan. The soluble fiber binds bile acids in the intestine, which consist, among other things, of cholesterol and are needed for fat digestion. If they are missing, our body has to produce new bile acids from cholesterol, so the cholesterol level in the blood drops. So it’s no wonder that oatmeal is good for the heart.
- Olive oil
Heart-strengthening food is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. It consists largely of monounsaturated fatty acids, primarily oleic acid. Olive oil also contains polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Although rapeseed oil contains few polyphenols, it has an above-average amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), also an omega-3 fatty acid.
Which nuts are healthy for the heart? Walnuts in particular, but also cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans, score points with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, including vitamin E. This makes them excellent vascular protectors. They also fill you up well without raising blood sugar levels. They are therefore ideal as a snack between meals.
Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and the like contain plenty of vegetable protein and are therefore a wonderful meat alternative. They also offer complex carbohydrates and plenty of fiber. Both keep you full for a long time, prevent cravings, and help you achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.
Apples are healthy for the heart for two reasons. On the one hand, they offer pectin, which regulates cholesterol levels, like beta-glucan from oats. On the other hand, they provide plenty of flavonoids. These are secondary plant substances that are found in many fruits and vegetables, but also in tea, chocolate and red wine. They can lower blood pressure and therefore promote heart health. This effect can also be explained by a greater diversity of intestinal flora.
Which foods are bad for your heart?
There are a number of foods that can harm the organ, including:
Too much salt in food binds water in the body. This has a negative effect on the pressure in the blood vessels and increases the risk of high blood pressure. Do not consume more than six grams of salt daily. Instead, season with fresh or dried herbs, spices, garlic, and onions.
Too much of it promotes obesity and type 2 diabetes and, therefore, also poses a danger to the pump. Therefore, do not eat more than 50 grams of free sugar every day—25 grams is even better. The culprit also lurks as hidden sugar in ready meals and supposedly healthy things like fruit yogurts and muesli bars.
- Fried food
When oils are heated, high temperatures can change the molecular structures of the fat, creating trans fats. They increase the level of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood – so avoid fries, potato chips, pancakes, and fast food, and it’s best to cook yourself.
The myth persists that a glass of red wine is good for the heart. Scientists attributed this effect to the resveratrol it contains: Although the secondary plant substance can protect against vascular calcification in test tubes (in vitro) and in animal experiments, there are no meaningful clinical studies in humans that prove a preventive effect. In addition, alcohol is a cell toxin and has been proven to be unhealthy.
- Fat sausage
Salami, mortadella, tea sausage, and the like made from pork are very high in fat and therefore provide plenty of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol. In addition, sausage products are often very salty. Therefore, the less, the better – and if so, choose lean varieties such as poultry cold cuts, corned beef or deer ham. You should also hold back when it comes to meat. Experts recommend eating no more than one or two servings of meat per week, preferably poultry.
Alcohol, too much salt and sugar are bad for the heart. Deep-fried foods and fatty sausages are also problematic. This is about trans fats or saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.
Keeping your heart healthy: Are foods containing cholesterol taboo?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance and is not soluble in the blood. Therefore, it is packaged into small particles called lipoproteins for transport. They are differentiated into high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL). While HDL is considered “good” cholesterol, LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol because it can deposit on the blood vessels and thus increases the risk of cardiovascular disease
But the options for reducing LDL cholesterol levels through diet are limited. The body produces two thirds of cholesterol itself, primarily in the liver. We consume a third through food – especially animal foods such as eggs, seafood, high-fat cheeses and sausages.
However, these foods are not completely banned. What matters – as almost always – is the quantity: Eating eggs, cheese, sausage or seafood such as shrimp, mussels or squid every day is not recommended for a healthy heart. You should avoid that. However, there is nothing wrong with consuming foods containing cholesterol in small quantities; When it comes to sausage, it’s best to choose the version without pork.
Animal foods such as eggs, seafood, high-fat cheeses and sausages contain a lot of cholesterol. Although they are not completely taboo, they should only be enjoyed in moderation.
Knowledge to take with you
Cardiovascular diseases are widespread and one in four deaths are caused by a diseased heart: coronary heart disease (CHD), heart attack and heart failure lead the statistics. The main cause is vascular calcification, also known medically as arteriosclerosis. It is promoted, among other things, by high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and lipid metabolism disorders, especially increased LDL cholesterol levels.
However, with the right diet, several risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be eliminated. Experts recommend the Mediterranean diet. It is based on the diet that was common in Mediterranean countries in the 1950s and 1960s: lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grain products, olive oil, fish and moderate amounts of dairy products, poultry and eggs.
Alcohol, too much salt and sugar, on the other hand, are bad for the heart. This also applies to red wine – even if the myth persists that a glass of red wine is good for the heart. However, there is no scientific evidence for this. Deep-fried foods and fatty sausages are also problematic. This is about trans fats or saturated fatty acids and cholesterol. They can increase LDL cholesterol and thus the risk of cardiovascular disease.