Nourish the Heart
Foods that Promote Cardiac Healing
by Steven Masley, M.D., FAHA, FACN, CNS
The right food choices don’t just prevent heart disease and help shrink artery plaque, they also nourish and heal the heart. For a healthy ticker, enjoy these five food groups every day.
Fiber is the roughage in vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, and it is loaded with age-busting nutrients. Eating fiber suppresses appetite, promotes weight loss, improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels, decreases inflammation and feeds a healthy gut microbiome.
The challenge is to get more fiber every day. Too often, people consume fiber from processed grains and flour, and the sugar load that comes with grain fiber has many adverse impacts on heart health. The best option is to enjoy daily fiber from the following sources: three cups of colorful vegetables; two pieces of fruit, such as one cup of berries and one apple; two handfuls of nuts and seeds; and one-half to one cup of beans.
Clinical studies show that enjoying fats from seafood, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts decreases the risk of a heart attack and stroke without causing weight gain. Healthy fats improve cholesterol levels, assist with blood sugar control, are critical for the brain, improve hormone balance and reduce inflammation.
Fats enhance the texture of food, adding that smooth, creamy mouth feel to a meal that makes eating a pleasure. Enjoy healthy fats from avocados, seeds and dark chocolate daily.
Clean (Not Mean) Protein
Raising animals in large-scale conventional operations with cruel living conditions is not just mean, it also produces less nutritious meat that can be loaded with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Choose clean protein instead, which does not contain added hormones, pesticides and other toxins. Good sources of protein are organic dairy products and eggs, wild seafood and animal protein that has been grass-fed or organically fed while living on open pasture. Beans are also a great protein-packed choice that improves blood sugar and cholesterol profiles. They are the most powerful anti-aging food ever tested.
Start with at least four cups of water per day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s flat or sparkling, so long as it’s pure. Pure water can be purchased or made at home or at work with a reverse osmosis filter system.
Except for people that are caffeine sensitive, one to two servings of caffeinated beverages can be enjoyed daily. In moderation, those tea and coffee pigments are good for us.
Don’t forget a fiber- and protein-rich smoothie to stay satisfied and revved up all morning. A balanced and delicious recipe includes one serving of protein powder, frozen organic cherries or blueberries, almond milk and chia seeds.
Take advantage of the option to enjoy wine with dinner—just be sure to limit wine intake to no more than two servings daily.
Avoid any beverage with added sugar or commercial sweeteners. Don’t be fooled into drinking juice; without the fiber, fruit juice is much closer to drinking soda than to eating fruit.
Not only do probiotics help gut function—a healthy gut microbiome decreases inflammation and supports weight control. The latest research reveals that the microbes
in the gut have a dramatic impact on the risk for heart disease, as well. Because healthy microbes feed on fiber, eating fiber is good for the gut microbiome, too.
The right gut microbes offer numerous benefits. They lower harmful cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure to normal levels, assist with weight loss, decrease inflammation and decrease production of trimethylamine N-oxide (also known as TMAO), a marker for heart disease. Support the gut microbiome by eating probiotic food sources daily, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled veggies and miso.
Dr. Steven Masley is a physician, nutritionist, trained chef, clinical professor at the University of South Florida and creator of health programs for public television. He is the author of The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. Learn more at DrMasley.com.