A healthy heart means a healthy you. India has been at high risk for several heart-related diseases. Changing your lifestyle such as eating healthy food and exercising can go a long way in preventing cardiovascular diseases. This blog talks about how the inclusion of certain nutrients through the food you eat can be effective in taking care of your heart’s health.
Which nutrients are good for your heart?
A healthy diet can help you in a number of ways. It can reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It can further help you manage your weight and lower your cholesterol levels. But how? Essentially the nutrients in your food perform the function of keeping you healthy. Discussed below are a few extremely vital nutrients that work towards keeping your heart healthy:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, cod liver oil, walnuts and flaxseed. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids - alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We have to rely on the food that we eat for ALA since our bodies cannot synthesize it. Some ALA can be converted to EPA and then DHA in very small quantities. Therefore food is the only practical way to increase the levels of EPA and DHA along with ALA. 
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce blood pressure, improve cardiac and vascular function, decrease inflammation and boost cardiac rhythm.  Extensive studies have been conducted on omega-3 fatty acids to prove that it significantly reduces mortality risk due to cardiac arrhythmias and coronary heart disease.  Fish consumption is the most well-known source of lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, mortality and depression.  But if you are someone who does not eat much seafood, you can get your dose of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements and if you are a vegetarian then flaxseed is the way to go.
Adding fiber to your diet can take care of many aspects of your health. Fiber can help improve your digestive health by regulating your bowel movements. It can also help you in weight management because fiber keeps you full for a longer period of time. Apples, nuts, beans, wheat, brown rice and leafy green vegetables are rich in fiber. Fiber comes in two broad types - soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Most fiber-rich foods are immensely beneficial in preventing heart diseases. Soluble fiber helps in lowering blood cholesterol. The liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids. Soluble fiber binds with the bile acids in the stomach and flushes them out from the body. To cover the gap in bile acid’s availability, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood thus lowering the blood cholesterol.  A high fiber diet also improves blood glucose control because the body cannot absorb and break down fiber like other carbohydrates and therefore it does not cause a spike in blood sugar.  Further, fiber reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by lowering blood pressure, improving blood lipid profiles and reducing inflammation.   
Monounsaturated fats, commonly known as MUFA, are great for your heart health. They can decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or “good cholesterol. The LDL cholesterol molecules, particularly the smaller ones, are likely to get oxidized. Oxidation of LDL is a process in which both the protein and lipids undergo changes to form complex products.  This can lead to atherosclerosis, which is a condition where fats and cholesterol can build up in your artery walls blocking the blood flow. A person can get a heart attack if the blood supply to his heart is reduced. Monounsaturated fats make the LDL less susceptible to oxidation. Therefore, MUFA has been associated with lowering the rate of coronary heart disease.  
It is highly recommended that you include an adequate amount of monounsaturated fats in your diet every day. Some sources of MUFA are almonds, peanuts and avocados. In fact, some of the cooking oils such as safflower oil, peanut oil, olive oil and sesame oil are also rich in monounsaturated fats and are therefore healthy for your heart.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, has been successful in lowering heart attacks. A study conducted on a control group showed that folic acid supplementation can lower the risk of stroke by 10% and the risk of overall cardiovascular diseases by 4%.  Homocysteine is a type of amino acid that should be present in your bloodstream in very small quantities. High levels of homocysteine lead to the hardening of arteries, leading to coronary heart diseases.  Studies have shown that folic acid can lower the homocysteine levels in the blood and therefore reduces the artery wall thickening. This makes folic acid a vital nutrient in reducing strokes and heart attacks. 
Consuming food rich in folate is a step taken towards keeping your heart healthy. Some folate-rich foods that you can add to your diet are dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, Amarnath greens), citrus fruit, beans and lentils (Bengal gram, green gram, black gram).
Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body including muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation.  Additionally, high intakes of magnesium are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease.  As per a study, consumption of magnesium is also associated with a 22% reduction in the risk of heart failure, and a 7% reduction in the risk of heart stroke.  Magnesium is also known to lower blood pressure in individuals with prediabetes and insulin resistance. It can also keep your heart rhythm steady. 
Some of the best food sources for magnesium include spinach, soy, almonds, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, sesame seeds and black beans. Ensure that your diet consists of one of these food items to keep your heart strong.
Potassium is also very effective for your heart health because it is important in managing your blood pressure. Blood pressure is not a cardiovascular disease on its own. However, high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular complications that can weaken your heart. Potassium relaxes the walls of the blood vessels which helps in lowering blood pressure.  Sodium increases blood pressure because eating too much salt-containing sodium can make it difficult for your kidneys to remove fluid from your body. This builds up in the body which then increases your blood pressure.   Potassium comes in handy in lowering the effects of sodium on blood pressure.  Studies have shown that lowering blood pressure has been effective in keeping cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and heart failure at bay. 
Potatoes, winter squash, spinach, broccoli, bananas, oranges, raisins and dates are rich in potassium. Keep eating one of these potassium-rich sources of food to manage your blood pressure and overall heart health.
Which nutrients are bad for your heart?
While you must make sure to keep your diet rich in all the nutrients mentioned above, you should be wary of indulging in certain nutrients damaging your heart health. While healthy fats are required by your body for energy and other functions, saturated fats should be avoided because they can raise your LDL cholesterol levels and cause them to build up in your arteries. Therefore, the blood flow to your heart can get blocked. This will expose you to several heart diseases such as heart failure, heart stroke and coronary heart disease. 
In today’s world of lifestyle diseases taking care of what we eat is an important aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle. Keeping your diet rich in all the nutrients that have been discussed in this blog can take you a step ahead toward living a healthier life. If you are worried about not being able to fit these nutrients into your diet on a regular basis, try our Happy Ratio All-In-One Nutrition health shakes which contain 39 essential nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, MUFA, vitamin B9, magnesium, potassium and more. You can choose your favourite flavour here.