Tasty Treats That Are Good for Your Heart

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

 July 25, 2014

  • Effortless ways to save your heart
  • My favorite heart-healthy foods
  • A word of caution

On Monday, I shared how sugar damages your cardiovascular system and literally doubles your risk of dying from heart disease.

Well, the emails are pouring in. And the message is pretty much the same in all of them.

“Hey Doc… I’m glad you warned me about sugar being bad for my heart. But what foods can I eat that are good for it?”

So today, I’m going to share some of my favorite heart-healthy foods and nutrients with you. You’re going to love every single one of them. They’re foods most of us grew up eating. And you probably still enjoy them on occasion.

However, it might never have occurred to you to eat more of them, or to enjoy them every single day. You might even think you should be avoiding a few of them, because you think they’re “bad” for you.

For example, some people avoid olive oil or nuts because of their fat content. However, eating a Mediterranean diet high in olive oil and nuts can reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event by about a third. Just 1.7 ounces of olive oil a day and about 30 grams of nuts (like walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) is all it takes.

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As a regular Advanced Natural Wellness reader, you already know that exercise and a healthy, Mediterranean diet are two of the most important things you can do to protect your heart.

However, there are some pretty tasty foods that can also have a positive effect on your entire cardiovascular system. They can keep your blood flowing freely and your heart pumping strong for years to come.

Here are a few you should try…

Eat more cranberries. These tart little berries keep blood cells from clumping together, increase HDL levels and have potent anti-inflammatory effects. The antioxidants in cranberries also keep LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. And oxidized cholesterol is more likely to stick to artery walls and cause atherosclerosis. Skip the sugary cranberry juice “cocktail” and add one ounce of 100% cranberry juice (no sugar added) to water, sparkling water, or your usual juice. Or take 400 mg. of supplemental cranberry extract daily for the same benefits.

Learn to love Indian food. It’s rich in heart-healthy turmeric, the spice that gives curry its color. Turmeric contains curcuminoids that can reduce inflammation and prevent atherosclerosis. It even rivals aerobic exercise when it comes to improving blood flow and arterial function. Not an Indian-food fan? Take turmeric capsules. Dosages range from 600-1,200 mg. per day standardized to 90% or more curcuminoids.

Treat yourself to some watermelon. It contains citrulline, an amino acid that increases nitric oxide (NO) production. When nitric oxide is plentiful, your arteries, blood vessels and veins are wide open. Blood surges through them exactly the way it should. The absolute best food source of citrulline is watermelon. You can also try a citrulline supplement. I suggest starting with 1,500 mg. daily.

Spice up your life with chili peppers. Hot peppers are one of the best foods around. They increase metabolism, help burn fat and increase the release of “feel good” endorphins in your brain. Better yet, these spicy treats help reduce LDL cholesterol and improve blood flow through your arteries. Capsaicin is the active component. If spicy foods don’t agree with you, you can always supplement with a cayenne pepper extract that’s standardized to 0.25% capsaicin.

Get stinky with garlic. Garlic is a big winner when it comes to your heart health. It’s been shown to reduce plaque in the arteries, lower homocysteine levels, improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Try eating fresh garlic as often as possible. Or ,you can pick up an aged garlic supplement and take 900 mg. per day.

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Try eating pomegranate. The antioxidants in this unusual fruit help protect nitric oxide from oxidation and lowers blood pressure. This, in turn, reduces damage to the walls of your arteries and helps prevent blockages. Where can you get pomegranate? Try your local organic produce market for fresh, organic pomegranate fruit. You can also pick up pure, natural pomegranate juice or try supplementing with 100 mg. capsules.

Don’t skimp on protein. Eating plenty of healthy proteins can lower your risk of heart disease by more than 25%. Good sources include wild-caught fish, pasture-raised (organic) poultry and pastured eggs. Beans, nuts, seeds, grass-fed beef, almond milk and plain organic Greek yogurt also contain heart-healthy proteins.

All of these foods are easy to eat regularly. And, if there are a few you don’t like, it’s simple enough to get them in supplement form.

Now, before closing, I want to add one more tip that your heart will thank you for…

Don’t forget to take your CoQ10!

This is absolutely essential for anyone over the age of 50, since CoQ10 stores decline as we age. And, it’s even more important if you take a statin drug.

There’s a good reason for this…

Statin drugs deplete your stores of CoQ10 and cause direct injury to the muscular tissue in your heart!

Supplementing with CoQ10 replenishes the cellular energy your heart muscle needs to thrive. In fact, in people who have heart failure, it can cut the risk of a major cardiac event – and even the chance of death – in half.

Look for the most bio-available form available. It’s called “ubiquinol.” For most people, just one 100 mg. dose per day will do the trick. Increase that amount to 300 mg. daily if you suffer from cardiovascular disease or take a statin drug.

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Ruel G, et al. “Low-calorie cranberry juice supplementation reduces plasma oxidized LDL and cell adhesion molecule concentrations in men.” Br J Nutr. 2008 Feb;99(2):352-9. Epub 2007 Aug 29.

Akazawa N, et al. “Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.” Nutr Res. 2012 Oct;32(10):795-9.

Texas A&M University. “Watermelon May Have Viagra-effect.” ScienceDaily. July.2008.

“Hot pepper compound could help hearts.” News Release. American Chemical Society. Mar 2012.

Steiner M, et al. “Aged garlic extract, a modulator of cardiovascular risk factors: a dose-finding study on the effects of AGE on platelet functions.” Journal of Nutrition. 2001;131:980S-904S.

Ashraf R, et al. “Effects of Allium sativum (Garlic) on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension.” Pak J Pharm Sci. 2013 Sep;26(5):859-63.

Ignarro LJ, et al. “Pomegranate juice protects nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances the biological actions of nitric oxide.” Nitric Oxide. 2006 Sep;15(2):93-102.

Asgary S, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of Blood Pressure Lowering, Endothelial Function Improving, Hypolipidemic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Pomegranate Juice in Hypertensive Subjects.” Phytother Res. 2013 Mar 21.

Bernstein AM. “Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women.” Circulation. 2010;122:876-883.

European Society of Cardiology (ESC). “First drug to significantly improve heart failure mortality in over a decade.” ScienceDaily. May 2013