Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. If it’s weak, you’re weak. There are a few things you can do to provide your heart with what it needs to be at its best. The first is to get plenty of exercise. Your heart is a muscle, it needs to be worked. Second, avoid toxins that damage your cardiovascular system — don’t smoke, avoid high fat foods, and limit (eliminate?) your refined sugar intake. Here are ten foods you can add to your diet to increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants necessary to maintain a healthy heart. And they’re delicious too.
Not everyone consumes meat, but if you do, salmon is one you should consider. Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids top the list of reasons salmon is so good for your heart. Salmon offers the highest value of vitamin D of any fish. Vitamin D aids calcium digestion, supports immune function, has been linked to weight loss and management, and is needed for proper brain function, especially as we age. Low levels of vitamin D in adults have been associated with heart problems and premature death. 
The omega-3 fatty acids as found in salmon have proven to improve lipid profiles, nitric oxide (NO) synthesis (NO is needed for various bodily processes), and antioxidant levels. Plus, salmon is an excellent source of protein.  Add some lemon for flavor and vitamin C.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  A recent study showed broccoli and similar veggies lowered the risk of cardiac associated death more than other fruits and vegetables.  Researchers have taken specific interest recently in the potential of a compound found in broccoli, indole-3-carbinol (I3C), for heart health. A study based on mouse models found I3C provided cardiac protection as it counteracted aspects of heart failure. 
A ½ cup serving of asparagus is loaded with folate, vitamins A, C, and K and provides a full range of minerals like magnesium and potassium needed for proper muscle function. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids and is good source of protein. Researchers have also found the phenolic acids in asparagus significantly increase the effectiveness of detoxifying enzymes that facilitate the removal of drugs and other toxic compounds.  This protects the health and structure of the cardiovascular system.
A single cup of chickpeas offers a complete source of vitamins (spec. the B complex vitamins), minerals (zinc, iron, magnesium, selenium and potassium), amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. A study evaluating the impact of chickpeas on lipid levels showed lower levels of cholesterol after they became a standard feature of the diet. 
Spinach, often referred to as a superfood, provides potent phytochemicals, vitamins A, C and K, and calcium and magnesium. One serving of spinach will give you 20% of the daily recommended value of magnesium. This is important as the body needs magnesium for proper muscle function, to control blood sugar, to regulate blood pressure and create glutathione, the body’s super-antioxidant. 
Perhaps the most complete nut, almonds provide B-complex vitamins, vitamin E and high daily values of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium – all needed for proper muscle function, immune health and hormone balance. Almonds have also proven more effective at balancing cholesterol than eliminating dietary saturated fats, while providing necessary fatty acids for better overall cardiovascular health. 
The heart healthy Mediterranean diet features both olives and olive oil. They possess antioxidant properties and supply omega-3 fatty acids and phenolic compounds. Olives (combined with the next food on the list) help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. 
8. Red Wine
Now, I’m not suggesting you begin to live off red wine, and in fact, many offerings are not worth consuming. But, there are a number of organic wineries that produce a great product for moments to appreciate. Red wine contains resveratrol, which has protective effects against most cardiovascular problems. Studies have isolated these beneficial effects to the polyphenols and their antioxidant properties. Again, the benefits only result when consumed in moderation. For a kid-friendly, or non-alcoholic source of resveratrol, give mulberries a try.
Packed with nutrients and phytochemicals, avocados contain fatty acids that facilitate the digestion of the fat soluble vitamins within, or those consumed along with, the avocado. Preliminary studies have shown positive cardiovascular support from a diet that includes avocados. 
The polyunsaturated fats as found in walnuts have been linked to a healthy heart. Recently their antioxidant levels have caught the attention of researchers. A 2012 study found walnuts possess a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity, indicating a powerful antioxidant capacity. 
Do you have a favorite that I missed? Please leave a comment below and share it with us!
- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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