As inconvenient as fish burps may be, they’re well worth the heart health benefits that omega-3s offer. After all, these fatty acids bolster our immune system, support artery function, and play a crucial role in our cell membranes and receptors.
Loading up on salmon, taking your fish oil, and penciling in those cardio workouts aren’t the only things you can do to take care of your heart, though. “The food you eat is the most important factor that directly impacts your heart health,” says Rebecca Lee, R.N., creator of natural health and wellness site Remedies For Me. In addition to a balanced diet of lean proteins, unsaturated fats, vegetables, and fruits, there are a number of specific nutrients (like omegas) out there that help keep your ticker ticking on strong. Make sure they make it onto your plate regularly, or consider adding a supplement to your daily routine.
Magnesium is crucial to many processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. “Higher magnesium intake has been associated with lower blood pressure, and helps stabilize the cardiac membrane,” says Amnon Beniaminovitz, M.D., cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology.
We need 310 (women) to 400 (men) milligrams of magnesium daily, which is found in leafy greens, like spinach (78 milligrams per half cup) and Swiss chard, cashews (74 milligrams per ounce), black beans (60 milligrams per half cup), avocados (44 milligrams per cup), edamame (50 milligrams per half cup) and dark chocolate (41 milligrams per ounce).
2. Turmeric (Curcumin)
Turmeric, the yellow spice used in Indian curries, has been a star in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and your Instagram feed because it contains an antioxidant compound called curcumin, which supports our cardiovascular health by bolstering our body’s immune response. The antioxidant helps promote blood flow and blood vessel wall function.
Experts recommend pairing turmeric with black pepper, since piperine, the active compound in black pepper, increases our absorption of turmeric’s curcumin. Look for a turmeric supplement that contains both curcumin and black pepper, or brew yourself some golden milk with coconut milk, two and a half teaspoons of turmeric, and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper.
3. Vitamin D
Not only does vitamin D regulate how much calcium makes its way to our bones, but it’s also crucial for our immune and cardiovascular systems. While we can get some vitamin D from egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified dairy, between 50 and 90 percent of our vitamin D should ideally come from the sun, says Lee. Given the limited time many of us spend outside—especially in the wintertime—most of us fall short.
Our vitamin D needs increase as we age and there’s a lot of back and forth about just how much D we need to reduce disease risk. Doctors now recommend as much as 1,000 to 2,000 IUs—but too much of this vitamin can damage our kidneys, so the National Institutes of Health recommends adults get 600 IUs of vitamin D a day. If you’re concerned about your D levels, talk to your doctor about testing your levels to find the right dose for you.
4. Red Yeast Rice
Made from a strain of yeast that’s grown on rice, red yeast rice is a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese cuisine. Its heart health benefits come from a compound called monacolin K, which helps support healthy cholesterol—particularly that LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, says Beniaminovitz.
Since red yeast rice isn’t a staple in the American diet, Dr. Beniaminovitz suggests supplementing with 600 milligrams daily after checking with your doctor. (It can interfere with certain medications.)
Coenzyme Q10 (a.k.a ‘CoQ10’) is a naturally-occurring compound found in organ meats, chicken, sardines, cauliflower, and broccoli, that acts as an antioxidant and helps cells produce energy. Research suggests CoQ10 has a number of cardiovascular benefits, including supporting healthy blood pressure.
There are two types of CoQ10 supplements out there: an active form called ubiquinol and an oxidized form called ubiquinone. Most of the CoQ10 found in our bodies is in ubiquinol form, and some studies have found it to be more bioavailable, though you’ll find supplements containing both forms. Most CoQ10 supplements offer about 100 milligrams a pop, but check with your doctor before supplementing if you’re on blood thinners.
Pin this handy infographic for heart health reference!