In honor of American Heart Month, we wanted to discuss heart healthy and skin healthy food choices!
Before we dive into the list, let’s talk about the two of the top key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
High Blood pressure is a common condition. It is determined by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. Typically, the narrower the arteries and the more blood the heart pumps, the higher the blood pressure. It can be asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms) and generally develops over the years. Signs and Symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, but again, most people have no signs and symptoms. Good news is typically our blood pressure is taken as a part of our vitals during a doctor’s appointment.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can be found in the fats of the body. The body needs cholesterol, but too much cholesterol can lead to high cholesterol. This is another common ailment that affects the United States. This means it is possible to develop fatty deposits in the blood vessels. There are no signs and symptoms, but fortunately, a simple blood test will detect the range level of your cholesterol.
How can we prevent these two conditions?
The general guidelines are:
- Eat a low salt (sodium) diet
- Many fruits, vegetables and Whole grains
- Moderate and Limit the amount of animal fat
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise most days for at least 30 minutes
- Limit alcohol consumption
With that being said, the following foods can aid in the reduction of both cholesterol and blood pressure while helping keep your skin young and healthy looking!
1. Fatty Fish: Salmon, Herring, Mackerel, Tuna, etc.
They contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which have been known for its heart benefits. They have been shown to help lower triglycerides, lower LDL cholesterol, and overall promote balanced cholesterol levels. In terms of skin health, it promotes shiny hair, glowing skin, healthy nails, and dryness. Other health benefits include fighting depression & anxiety, improves bone & joint health, improves eye health, sleep and fights inflammation.
2. Nuts & Seeds: Walnuts, almonds, unsalted sun flower seeds, flax seeds, etc.
Certain nuts and seeds are also a great source of Omega 3s and generally are good for satisfying hunger. They contain fiber and wide variety of nutrients. Walnuts for example contain Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Selenium. Zinc is essential for proper skin barrier function like would healing and combatting bacteria and inflammation. Selenium and Vitamin E are powerful antioxidants, which helps protect the body, both heart and skin, from free radicals and cell damage.
3. Berries: Blueberries, Strawberries, etc.
Many of us know that berries tend to be packed with antioxidants, high in fiber and vitamins C. There have been studies that state that blueberries, black raspberries and strawberries can help lower the LDL cholesterol as well and reduce other risk factors for heart disease. In addition, they keep the skin smooth and supple due to Vitamin C that spurs collagen production.
4. Carotenoids: Red, Yellow & Orange Vegetables. (Carrots, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes)
Aside from fiber and other vitamins, they contain carotenoids. They are categorized as antioxidants. Certain types of carotenoids can be converted into Vitamin A, which is essential for growth, immune system function and eye health. As we’ve already learned, antioxidants can aid against arterial blockages and heart disease. Vitamin A can also protect against sun damage which can lead to premature aging skin.
5. Dark Greens: Spinach, Kale, Collards, Asparagus, etc.
Sometimes commonly referred to as Super foods because of the abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The health benefits they provide could be an entire article by itself. Let’s stick to the Vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting and even been linked to decrease risk of heart disease. The benefits of this include artery protection, proper wound healing, and minimized bruising. This translates to aiding of scar healing, dark spots like dark circles, rosacea, stretch marks, varicose veins, and spider veins.
I wanted to include this with greens listed above but the abundance of nutrients has to be promoted. Vitamins C and E, potassium, folate calcium and fiber. In terms of heart health, broccoli can id in cholesterol reduction and keeping the blood vessels strong. For the skin, Vitamin C helps decrease cell damage helps the healing process of bodily wounds, play apart in collagen synthesis and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin E’s main function is to prevent sun damage, keeps the skin conditioned and prevents dryness.
7. Dark Chocolate
As long as the cocoa is over 70%, consuming dark chocolate can be beneficial. It is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet, meaning they help fight cell damage. Studies show that dark chocolate can even improve overall health and lower risk of heart disease. In fact, it can help lower blood pressure prevent blood clots. As for your skin, it can aid in boosting this skin’s moisture and help diminish and prevent wrinkles by helping protect the skin from sun damage.
8. Red Wine
In moderation, meaning one glass a day for healthy women, red wine can be beneficial. The key ingredient is resveratrol which help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces LDL cholesterol and prevent blood clots. It has also been linked to lowering the risk of inflammation. The alcohol can help raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). More research is needed, but for now, we’ll take it. Its antioxidants help fight aging y restoring collagen and elastic fibers. Did you know some people use red wine topically as a toner or a mist?
We hope you take this as motivation to try to include at least a few of these ingredients daily!
In order to keep the list rather short, we left some out, but feel free add them in the comments! Also, share with us some of your favorite heart healthy AND skin healthy recipes!
Credit to the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health Publishing and HealthLine for the plethora of studies.