Heart disease is the number one cause of death for Americans. It affects us and all those around us. Since diet is such an important factor in cardiovascular health, knowing what foods are good and bad for your heart is crucial.
Although cholesterol is necessary for your body to function normally, many of the foods that people eat today contribute to higher levels of a ”bad“ form of cholesterol, called LDL, which can clog arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol is made in the body naturally, but consuming animal products high in cholesterol, like whole milk or butter, can increase the amount that we have in our bodies to unhealthy levels.
Foods that are high in saturated fats raise LDL levels. Solid fats like butter, margarine, and shortening are sources of saturated fats. Getting rid of these, or replacing them with unsaturated, is important for maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol. Not all fats are bad, though. In fact, many unsaturated fats can play beneficial roles in the body, like stabilizing heart rhythm and even improving cholesterol levels. These ”good“ fats can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.
Trans fat lowers your level of HDL, or ”good“ cholesterol, which functions to clean up ”bad“ LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream by carrying it to the liver so that it can be disposed of. A low level of HDL can also increase risk of cardiovascular disease because it slows down how quickly the “bad” cholesterol can be removed from the bloodstream.
Another way to reduce your levels of “bad” cholesterol is to eat more fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce how much cholesterol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Foods that are high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. A few foods that are a great source of fiber are oatmeal and flax seeds.
Another factor that affects cardiovascular health is blood pressure. High salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Canned and processed foods tend to have high sodium content, so minimizing how many prepared foods you eat can cut down a significant portion of the salt in your diet. Instead, try making your own foods, and use herbs and spices to flavor dishes instead of salt.
CATEGORIES: Cholesterol, Healthy Foods, Heart Health