The best thing you can do for your heart is feed your body nutrient-dense foods, and that includes healthy fats, organic and pastured meats, organically-raised produce and properly prepared grains. When there is an adequate range and quality of nutrients being taken in, your heart can maintain good health.
We’ve found Nourishing Traditions to be a fabulous resource as we have made choices with our own families of what foods to use on our tables and how to prepare them. Diet & Heart Disease: It’s NOT What You Think is also packed with specific information about supporting heart health.
Deficiencies in key nutrients can cause significant stress to your heart and its health.
- Vitamin C. According to Fallon and Enig in Diet & Heart Disease (p4), “Vitamin C deficiency makes for weaker arterial walls, subject to more inflammation and tearing.” Correcting the deficit leads to strong and healthy vessels and heart muscle. Some of the best sources of Vitamin C are raw milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, and herbs.
- Minerals. Minerals are found in organic butter, organic animal organs, dark leafy vegetables, raw nuts, and sea products, and if your diet is lacking in these, you may also be lacking in minerals. “Heart disease has been correlated with mineral deficiencies. Coronary heart disease rates are lower in regions where drinking water is naturally rich in trace minerals, particularly magnesium, which acts as a natural anti-coagulant and aids potassium absorption, thereby preventing heartbeat irregularities.” (Diet & Heart Disease, p61-62) When supplementing, make sure to consider the fact that your heart needs a variety of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, chromium, selenium, iodine, and other trace minerals.
- Folate, B6, and B12. These nutrients are primarily found in animal products, but can also be found in dark, leafy vegetables. Sufficient intake of this trio of B Vitamins decreases the likelihood of atherosclerosis, and “these three nutrients also lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can trigger heart disease.” (Diet & Heart Disease, p62)
- Antioxidants. Free radicals, such as pollution, toxins, unnatural chemicals, tobacco smoke, food additives, and even the byproducts of our own metabolized nutrients can attack and damage the body’s tissues (from DNA to arterial walls) if there are not adequate amounts of antioxidant nutrients in the diet. Increased free radicals without sufficient antioxidants increase stress and damage to the heart and its vessels. Examples of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals include Vitamins A, C, and E, Selenium, CoQ10, Zinc, and Glutathione. Sources of antioxidants are dark green leafy vegetables, organic pastured meats, grassfed butter, all orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, and even some spices such as turmeric. In addition, supporting the liver and its detoxification of free radicals as part of the metabolism process is extremely beneficial.
- Powerhouses of A, D, and K. Dr. Weston Price was one of the first to notice the link between fat-soluble vitamins and heart health. He observed that during winter months when Vitamin D and A were not as naturally plentiful in the diet and lifestyle, the incident of heart attacks went up. “Vitamin A is required for numerous bodily functions, including protein and mineral utilization and the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. Since poor thyroid function is a cause of heart disease, a deficiency could be an indirect cause of heart disease. Since Vitamin D is needed for calcium utilization, a deficiency may cause increased calcification of the arteries, leading to accelerated atherosclerosis.” (Diet & Disease, p64-65) In addition to A and D, Vitamin K2 is very important. According to the Rotterdam Study in 2004, K2 is the only known nutrient that not only prevents but reverses atherosclerosis (for more information on K2, please see our post here). Sources of A and D are salmon, fish roe, grassfed butter and cod liver oil.
8 Lifestyle Choices to Support Heart Health
- Eliminate Processed Foods. Increase nutrient-dense foods in their whole forms.
- Avoid refined sugars. Use whole sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, stevia or rapadura.
- Avoid all trans fats. Exclude vegetable oils, shortening, and margarine. Increase saturated fats such as grassfed butter, unrefined animal fats, and coconut oil.
- Throw out the pasteurized and homogenized milk. Replace with fresh raw dairy products (if you tolerate dairy well).
- Just say no to low-cholesterol and low-fat foods. These foods are often filled with chemical additives, artificial flavorings, and sugars. Pick healthy whole foods to nourish and provide the needed nutrients.
- De-stress your life. Stress increases the presence of free radicals in the body. Increase relaxing activities such as short breaks where you focus on a pleasant hobby.
- Functional exercise. Choose a physical activity that allows for an increase of heart rate without putting undue stress on the body.
- Dry brushing. Encourage good circulation and detoxification by using a stiff brush to stimulate the skin.
With these nutrients and lifestyle choices, you’ll be giving your body a toolbox full of heart-healthy options.