Food & Diet
6 Foods that Improve Heart Health and Fights Inflammation
When chemicals, plant pollen or microbes enter your body, it sees them as foreign invaders and tries to fight them by attacking them – that process is called inflammation.
Unfortunately, the foods we eat today are usually processed and contain harmful ingredients that cause our body to fight to protect our health, and if we eat those foods on a daily basis, inflammation persists and that is when it stops being a protector and starts being an enemy to our health. Many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s have been linked to chronic inflammation, according to Harvard Medical School.
The best way to fight inflammation is not to start taking medications, but to start eating foods that have anti-inflammatory properties. Those foods are packed with natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which according to Dr. Frank Hu (professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health) have the ability to reduce the risk of inflammation and chronic disease.
Read on to find out which foods to choose.
Tomatoes come from the family of carotenoids and contain beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin that protect the body from oxidative damage induced by free radicals which cause chronic disease. Regular consumption of tomatoes has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack.
An analysis of the data found in the Physicians’ Health Study from 2004 showed that men with high levels of lycopene in their blood (usually raised by the consumption of tomatoes) were 39% less likely to have a stroke.
Tomatoes also contain high levels of vitamins C and E, known antioxidants that protect the heart and overall health.
2. Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a great-tasting addition to salads and other dishes, but it is also very healthy.
According to a study conducted in 2011, oleocanthal (a compound contained in olive oil) prevents the production of COX-1 and COX-2 pro-inflammatory enzymes, and as one of the authors of the study, Paul Breslin, Ph.D., claims based on his findings, this also leads to a decrease in pain.
A study conducted in Spain in 2005 at the University of Cordoba found that polyphenols contained in olive oil fight inflammation and promote heart health. Extra-virgin olive oil is a healthy source of fat and it doesn’t cause spikes in cholesterol levels, but it should be taken in moderation as it contains many calories and excess consumption can lead to weight gain.
3. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are packed with antioxidants and are very rich in nutrients. Their benefits for our health are so great that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating at least three cups per week.
Eating spinach, kale, collards and other leafy greens can help your body fight inflammation and improve the health of your heart, as well as the rest of your body. The fiber contained in these vegetables can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, according to Joy Bauer, the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY show.
4. Fatty Fish
According to a study from 2010 published in the Nutrition Reviews, fatty fish contain omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which are very powerful when it comes to fighting inflammation. Fatty fish also contain eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, which are known to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory compounds.
The study found that increasing the amount of fatty fish in a person’s diet can lead to a reduction in the incidence of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer and others.
5. Strawberries, Blueberries, Cherries And Oranges
According to Harvard Medical School, these fruits have anti-inflammatory properties and protect the heart from chronic disease when eaten frequently in moderation. Besides being delicious, these fruits contain natural antioxidants and polyphenols which protect the body from the damage free radicals can cause.
They also contain high levels of vitamins and antioxidants called flavonoids which protect the watery portions of our cells and prevent pro-inflammatory activity in our body.
A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry also found that the anthocyanins found in berries protect the cells from inflammation and cell damage.
A study conducted in 2011 at Harvard Medical School showed that drinking coffee can lead to many health benefits, from relieving depression and lowering the risk of stroke among men and women, to protecting against Parkinson’s, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Coffee contains chlorogenic acids and other antioxidants and even vitamins and minerals in small doses. Drinking coffee in moderate doses can be good for you, but you need to be careful not to overdo it, because then it stops being beneficial and can even harm your health.