6 Best Food Choices for Healthy Heart

August 7, 2023 by Lazer Brody

Fitness is 80% eating and 20% physical activity. Heart health is no exception. Although many people shy at the word “exercise”, few people back away from food. Therefore, good heart health begins in the kitchen. Let’s see what cardio-compatible eating looks like and how beneficial and tasty it is.

The Rambam and the Mediterranean Diet

Maimonides, aka “The Rambam”, was a 12th CE Torah scholar, physician, and scientist. His laws of nutrition outshine all of the fad and extreme diets that come and go. Born in Spain, he lived in Morocco and in Egypt, where he was the personal physician of Saladin, the king of Egypt. Today’s Mediterranean diet conforms closely to the Rambam’s food choices, which I sorted into six categories, as follows:

1. Vegetables and Fruits

Veggies are the all-star of the heart healthy diet. They’re nutritionally dense and packed with vitamins and minerals. They also contain phytochemicals that work synergistically for cardio health in a way that not even scientists understand. Cruciferous veggies prevent clogged arteries. Green veggies contain chlorophyll, which the heart loves. Leafy greens deliver fiber, which reduce both cholesterol and blood pressure. Veggies should be the bulk of our diet. Eat them at every meal, for they are filling and contain few calories. While fruit is also vitamin-rich and heart healthy, a person should limit fruit intake to less than 4 servings per day because of their high sugar content. Cranberries, red grapes and blueberries are especially good for the heart.

Rule of thumb: stick to natural, unprocessed veggies and fruits. Avoid commercial fruit juices for the are super-high caloric and high in sugar. Natural fruit sugar is healthiest when eaten naturally, with the fruit’s pulp and fiber. What’s more, the higher the percentage of veggies and fruit in your diet, the healthier you’ll be. Your food bill will also be substantially lower. With both health and budget benefits, veggies and fruit should be the bulk of your diet, as they are of the Mediterranean diet.

2. Quality Protein

Here too, natural is the key word. Fish, especially omega-3 rich fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel are wonderful sources of protein. So are nuts and seeds, especially almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Poultry, lean beef and eggs also have a big protein clout. Contrary to popular belief, one need not fear cholesterol as long as sugar and empty-carb intake is low. Don’t forget beans and lentils.

The Standard American Diet (acronym SAD, for that’s what it does to your heart) is loaded with processed, smoked and junk-food that’s inundated with chemical additives. Categorically avoid them, for they’re both unhealthy and outrageously expensive per portion.

3. Quality Fats

The “Low Fat” food products producers have given fat a bad rap in order to dupe consumers into buying their unhealthy processed products. Natural fat is healthy, because the body cannot absorb most vitamins without it.

My favorite sources of healthy natural fats are cold-pressed oils (olive, sesame and flax), avocados and omega-3 rich foods such as walnuts, sardines and salmon. As a rule of thumb, if a fat is liquid at room temperature, it’s most likely unsaturated. Coconuts and dark chocolate are also healthy sources of fat, but eat them in limitation.

4. Whole Grains

Not all carbs are criminal. Empty and refined carbs, such as white flour, white sugar and their derivatives, raise blood-sugar levels then crash, because they are nutrient-sparse and fly through the body. Avoid them at all costs.

Whole grains are the carbs of choice. Bake with whole-wheat flour. Even better, use spelt – it tastes great, it’s nutritious and it can’t be genetically modified. Complex carbs such as potatoes, yams, beans, peas and fresh corn are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Here too, always choose natural over processed. If you purchase whole-grain baked goods and pasta, make sure the additives are minimal.

5. Natural Spices

These are my favorites. Your heart will love them.

6. Red Wine

A staple of Mediterranean diets is dry red wine. I contains a wide range of active compounds – polyphenols – with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are ever-so-healthy for the heart. It also has the antioxidant resveratrol, whose source is the skin of grapes. Resveratrol reduces cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

The Takeaway

The more you eat naturally, the happier and healthier you’ll be. You’ll be amazed how leaving the processed and fast foods on the supermarket shelf will make your heart and your pocket happier. G-d bless for great health!

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