One in four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease. That is 800,000 people per year. This is the biggest killer in our country, and the world. But it isn’t only death. One in three Americans has some form of it. The major cause is our diet. The high fat and cholesterol content in our food adds to plaque buildup in the circulatory system. In the 1950’s researchers found one area of Uganda where all the villagers were heart disease-free. The reason? They ate a plant-based diet, absent of the animal fats which clog up the vasculature. These villagers also consumed many of the foods thought to be excellent in supporting and sustaining cardiovascular health. If you want to protect your heart, why not consume foods that help keep it healthy and strong, and avoid the ones that add to the problem?
Here are some suggestions. Limit sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats and replace them with fresh herbs when cooking. Herbs will not only add flavor, they add healthful properties as well. Sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary are some examples. These are full of antioxidants, ridding the body of free radicals that can cause aging, disease, even cancer. Nutritionists say American adults should eat less dairy. Why not replace it? In many versions of almond milk, soy milk, and juices such as orange juice, sterols and stanols are added to block the absorption of cholesterol. Why not substitute cow’s milk for one of these varieties, and add a glass of juice to your morning breakfast?
Vegans live on average seven years longer than omnivores. Yet, many people are not comfortable with a completely plant-based diet. However, supplanting some animal-based protein with plant-based protein can considerably improve your cardiovascular health. Lentils, nuts, beans, and soy are all good substitutes. Instead of chicken for instance, why not use black beans in soups or on salads? They are tender and have a creamy, mild taste. Black beans contain folate, magnesium, and antioxidants which help balance blood-sugar and manage cholesterol.
For those who are carnivorous to the bone, perhaps trade meat for fish a couple of nights a week. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, mackerel, lake trout, sardines and others contain omega-3 fatty acids which are incredibly heart healthy. They also lower blood pressure, and decrease inflammation body-wide. Two servings a week is recommended by the American Heart Association. Make sure to replace butter, margarine, lard, and other unhealthful fats with olive oil, grape seed oil, flaxseed oil, or some other healthy variety. The latter clog arteries and so increase the risk of heart disease. Olive oil for instance contains polyphenols—antioxidants that help protect the heart. Just a few simple changes like eating more fruits and veggies and less meat, limiting junk food, and substituting unhealthy foods for healthy ones, that are also tasty, can save your heart, keeping you in great shape for years to come.