Fortunately, over the years scientists and nutritionists have studied the foods that are good for the heart, and some of these might come as a surprise. So let’s start this New Year off right by including some of the following foods in our diets, and maybe help avoid a trip to the doctor’s.
Oats belong to a larger category of foods referred to as whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire kernel as opposed to refined grains that have been processed to remove the bran and the germ. While this process allows certain grains to last longer on store shelves, it also removes much of the good stuff like B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, and antioxidants. Oats, in particular, as found in your morning oatmeal, contain a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan that decreases the total cholesterol in your blood as well as your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is important because it is the LDL or “bad” cholesterol that’s responsible for heart attacks. Some studies that required people’s diets to be supplemented with oat bran showed a decrease in total cholesterol by as much as 18% while others have found a drop in LDL cholesterol by as much as 9%.
In addition, whole grains have a low glycemic index, which is a measure of how high a food raises your blood sugar level. Foods with low glycemic index have a clear health advantage, particularly in helping to prevent diabetes (a major risk factor for coronary heart disease). Next time you reach for that cereal bar for breakfast, maybe you should reconsider and make a bowl of oatmeal.
Want to have your cake and eat it too? Then drink red wine. In moderation (4 to 8 ounces/day), red wine is cardioprotective. This effect comes from antioxidants found in red wine, particularly resveratrol. This compound found in grape extracts has several beneficial effects on the heart, including reducing LDL as well as total blood cholesterol. Moreover, resveratrol, as well as other polyphenols found in red wine, have been shown to reduce blood clots by inhibiting a component found in blood known as platelets. Similar to the action of aspirin, which is one of the mainstay therapies in heart attack prevention, red wine helps to prevent platelets from clumping together, which is a key event in coronary artery blockage.