5 Heart Healthy Foods + What Foods to Avoid

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America. Heart disease is created through a combination of factors, one of which being diet. But it's not the diet that the media would have you believe.

You've probably heard you should avoid meat, butter, eggs and full fat dairy because of the impact on your cholesterol. But have you heard that dietary cholesterol actual has very little impact on your body's cholesterol? In fact, only about 25% of people experience a change in their cholesterol when eating foods which are higher in cholesterol. And even in those folks, there is only a slight increase in both LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). And this affect hasn't been shown to cause heart disease.

So, what does cause heart disease? It is definitely a multifactorial condition, but inflammation and oxidative damage are key players.

5 Heart Healthy Foods:

Fermented Foods: Gut health plays are large roll in overall immune function, including inflammation. Fermented foods promote healthy gut bacteria and provide vitamin K2, a vitamin that protects against calcification in the arteries. Calcification of arteries is one of the best predictors of heart disease.

Saturated Fat: They are protective against oxidative damage. For a long time people have been led to believe saturated fat was bad, however, research has shown that this idea is simply not true. If you're eating saturated fat from animals, be sure to get it from grass fed or pasture raised only animals.

Salmon & Sardines: The high EPA and DHA (omega-3) found in these fish reduce inflammation, oxidation and shift LDL particle size to a more favorable and less dangerous state.

Olives & Avocados: Monounsaturated fats, like those found in olives and avocados, reduce LDL and increase HDL. They also lower inflammation and oxidation. And they promote a healthy immune response.

Cod Liver Oil: More than just inflammation reducing omega-3, cod liver oil provides vitamin D & A. Choose cold pressed cod liver oil so that you ensure you are buying a product that retained all of the essential nutrients.

Food to Avoid:

Processed Foods: Along with being filled with a whole array of things you should never put in your body, processed foods are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats. They also tend to be higher in sugar or refined grains, which disrupt blood sugar and insulin and can contribute to inflammation and diabetes.

Unhealthy Fats: Cottonseed, corn, canola, soy, safflower, sunflower oils contain high amounts omega-6, a fat that is considered a culprit in heart disease and known to cause inflammation and oxidative damage.

Making dietary shifts is one way you can ensure better health and protect yourself from heart disease. Eating a whole foods diet, rich in high quality fats, organic vegetables and organic-pasteur raised meats is not only beneficial to your heart, but to your overall health.

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a Functional Medicine Naturopathic Medical Doctor and the founder of Rubus Health, a women’s medicine clinic that specializes in women's hormones. She is recognized as a leading expert in Post-Birth Control Syndrome and the long-term side effects associated with hormonal contraceptives. Dr. Brighten is the best selling author, speaker and regular contributor to several online publications including MindBodyGreen. She is a medical advisor for one of the first data-driven apps to offer women personalized birth control recommendations.Read more about me.