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The heart is the source of life, it pumps blood around the clock to keep your organs functional.
Every time your heart beats, it pumps fresh blood into your veins. The number of times your heart beats in a minute makes up your pulse rate. For a healthy adult, the normal resting pulse rate is defined as 60-90 heartbeats per minute. (1)
When we look at the bigger picture, a healthy human heart beats about a billion times throughout an entire lifespan, circulating millions of gallons of blood throughout the body, which itself makes life possible.
The heart is a rather resilient organ as well, it functions well under fair conditions. However, many people often unintentionally neglect heart health by forgoing healthy eating and exercise and engaging in harmful behaviors such as smoking.
Other factors influence heart health as well – genetics, stress levels, sleep hygiene, infections, and the environment.
While you cannot control all of the factors at play, you certainly can change or tweak the way you eat to ensure your “biological pump” performs its best into old age.
Start with eating a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Also, adding herbs and spices to your everyday cooking can go a long way in protecting your heart while bringing up tons of flavor.
Let’s explore the world of heart-friendly herbs and spices.
Inflammation is damaging to all organs and systems in your body, including the heart.
Research shows that ginger may aid in maintaining a healthy heart. For centuries, ginger has been used in traditional medicine systems around the world to treat a variety of cardiovascular conditions. Ginger possesses anti-inflammatory properties, reducing oxidative stress that is damaging to the heart.
Adding dry ginger as a spice to any cooked meals and using fresh ginger in tea preparations are excellent ways to incorporate this spice into your diet to reap heart health benefits.
Cinnamon is a must-have in apple pies and cookies, but who knew it was such a health-boosting spice!
Research-based evidence has highlighted the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering, and cardioprotective properties of cinnamon. These therapeutic potentials can be traced back to certain active oils and compounds, such as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate, found in cinnamon. (6)
According to studies, cinnamon may also help in fighting neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. (6)
Cinnamon is great on oatmeal, breakfast cereal, fruit salad, yogurt, tea, or coffee, baked goods, almond butter banana toast, or pumpkin soup.
Just keep it handy in the kitchen or even on your office desk to remember to sprinkle it on your foods and drinks throughout the day.
The role of garlic as a herb with medicinal properties was established more than 5,000 years ago.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, garlic is also claimed to have beneficial effects on the prevention of various aspects of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and dyslipidemia. (7)
Considerable evidence from the literature supports the invaluable role of garlic in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia through inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis in the liver and also by inhibition of oxidation of low-density lipoproteins. (8)
Garlic can be used in its raw form or as a dried powdered spice when cooking, adding lots of flavor along the way.
If you want to use it raw, leave it on the cutting board for a couple of minutes after chopping and before adding to a dish, to allow for the activation of its medicinal compounds.
Similar to garlic, onions have the potential for lowering cholesterol, decreasing triglycerides, and reducing inflammation, leading to cardioprotective effects.
Onions contain certain powerful flavonoids (pigment-containing compounds) such as quercetin and alkenyl cysteine sulfoxides (ACSOs), which are credited with significant antioxidative, antiasthmatic, antibiotic, and anticarcinogenic activities. (9)
One way of enjoying raw onion without dealing with its overwhelmingly strong pungent taste is to marinate sliced red or white onion in apple cider vinegar overnight. Add it to salads and bowls or use it as a side to any meal for flavor and heart health benefits.
6. Black Pepper
Its active ingredient, piperine, is the one responsible for the reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol and an increase of HDL (good) cholesterol levels. (10)
Black pepper is also rich in vanadium, which may promote cardiac function recovery after a heart attack.
7. Chili Peppers
If you are up for some real spice, stock up on chili peppers to improve your cardiovascular condition and overall health. Capsaicin, the major active compound in chili peppers, is used as an analgesic for relieving muscle and joint pain.
Several studies showed that the daily intake of 4 mg capsaicin considerably improved the good cholesterol (HDL) levels while reducing the triglyceride and C-reactive protein levels in healthy subjects. (11)
Coriander, also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro, has a long history as traditional medicine.
Coriander seeds were noted to have a remarkable lipid-lowering action, leading to reduced LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increased HDL levels. (10)
Coriander is used ubiquitously in Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mediterranean, Mexican, and Eastern European cuisines. Feel free to explore the flavor and heart-boosting power of coriander in your meals.
This spice was also found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity and may reduce vascular inflammation, which is common in the process of atherosclerosis, one of the leading causes of heart attacks. (12)
Clove is a strong-smelling spice that is native to Indonesia but is widely used in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Cloves can be used whole in cooking savory dishes or as a ground spice in baked goods and soups.
The importance of clove is not limited to its culinary uses, as this aromatic ingredient is also known to possess several therapeutic properties.
It is known to exhibit antibacterial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and blood sugar regulation properties, which have been utilized in folk medicine for ages.
Some studies have also shown its effects on reducing inflammation, blood glucose levels, and lipid levels in type 2 diabetic rats, leading to reduced evidence of atherosclerosis. (11)
Widely used in Europe and Asia, dill is a common herb added to cooked meals and salads, in its dry or fresh form. It has a refreshing aroma and adds flavor to any dish.
But this popular cooking ingredient is also credited with significant pharmacological potential. In fact, dill is often used in traditional medicine for preventing and managing various ailments such as colic in infants, digestive problems, and respiratory diseases.
This healing herb may also help reduce blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
One study found that the levels of serum triglycerides, LDL, VLDL, and blood glucose significantly reduced in dill extract-treated hamsters fed a high-cholesterol diet, compared to the control group. (11)
Adding dill to your diet does not only contribute to a flavorful experience but may also offer potential heart-protective effects, although more research is needed to validate the research results.
Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that is 1 in every 4 deaths. (13)
While heart disease medications are available in all shapes, forms, and efficacies, adding natural treatments and dietary intervention may help reduce the severity of the condition and, in some cases, either prevent or revert them.
Spices and herbs are easy to incorporate into your diet – they are available, affordable, and simple to use.