Do you ever think about how hard your heart works for you, every second of every day?

The average heart beats 100,800 times a day.

It’s a tireless job.

That’s why we’d like to take the opportunity to appreciate and support this champion organ that loves us so much.

This episode of Food as Medicine discusses studies on 5 foods you can start consuming now that will work synergistically to:

  • Lower small particle LDL (bad cholesterol that clogs the arteries)
  • Raise HDL (good cholesterol that reduces your risk of heart disease)
  • Trigger and sustain your heart’s electrical impulses
  • Prevent blood clots and improve circulation
  • Strengthen your blood vessels

Five Foods for Heart Health

1) Shitake and Maitake Mushrooms

Recent study results on shiitake mushrooms and how they support cardiovascular health by lowering the bad cholesterol have the attention of researchers.

The method behind their efficacy is really because they are so good for our immunity. Thus, consuming shiitakes prevent too much immune cell binding to our blood vessel lining which keeps our blood vessels healthy and our bad cholesterol at bay.

These studies by the National Institute of Nutrition showed a drop in serum cholesterol of between 7 and 12%.

Maitake mushrooms also work in a similar fashion to help the body excrete bad cholesterol while activating natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are type of cancer and virus-killing white blood cells you want on your team.

Perhaps our Gluten-Free Wild Mushroom Pasta should make your menu this week. If you’d like to go beyond food here, you might consider putting mushroom powder in your smoothies, which I do that at least once a week. I like the brand Organic Mushroom Nutrition, and you can get 10% off with the code thewholejourney.

2) Plain Ole Onions

According to Dr. Victor Gurewich, director of the Tufts University Vascular Laboratory at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Boston “half a medium size raw, yellow or white onion – or equivalent juice – a day is usually enough to dramatically raise HDL cholesterol and average of 30% in about three out of four heart patients, In a few cases, the HDL levels have even doubled or tripled on the onion regimen.”

Amazing that this inexpensive, everyday food as such a powerful ability to raise HDL cholesterol, discourage blood clot formation while also lowering LDL.

Onions contain powerful sulfur-compounds, flavonoids, polyphenols, and quercitin (that is not degraded by cooking) to give us health benefits way beyond the heart as well.

3) Electrolytes

The heart needs electrolytes in order to consistently beat 100,000 plus times a day.

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphate and magnesium. They flow into and out of the nerve and muscle cells to produce the electrical current the heart relies on to contract.

This is why an electrolyte balance is kind of a big deal. It can cause problems with the current of the heart and result in arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms.

Our favorite way to get electrolytes is to drink coconut water, the Goodonya Hydrate drink, use plenty of Himalayan pink salt and bananas, or to put Ultima packets in my water when traveling.

4) Blueberries and Acai

These two foods are tied for number 4 because of they are both extremely high in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants famous for their ability to lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream while also having a cardio-protective effect on our cells.

They have this effect because they help prevent blood clots while improving circulation and relaxing the blood vessels.

A true dream team!

5) Raw Cacao

Our love affair with chocolate continues with the thumb’s up from UCSF scientists telling us in the longest clinical trial to date on chocolate and blood vessel health, that small daily doses of dark chocolate consumed over a two-week period improved the blood vessels ability to dilate, or expand – thus resulting in stronger blood vessels.

You see, now you can have your cake or in this case, our Chocolate Acai Sauce, and eat it too. 🙂

Since knowledge without action doesn’t affect our lives, now we’d like to hear from you.

Do you already eat these foods? How often? Which are your favorite and why?

References

National Institute of Nutrition http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3199106/

University of California San Francisco (UCSF) https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2004/06/5175/small-daily-doses-flavonoid-rich-chocolate-improve-blood-vessel-function