Drink to Heart Health: 5 Heart Healthy Choices
If you are looking to improve your heart health, you may find yourself swapping out the saltshaker for spices, eating whole foods in a variety of colors, and getting in more activity through exercise each day. But eating right and moving more are only part of the equation for better heart health.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are a major contributor of calories and added sugar in the standard American diet.1 And, beyond the relationship between sugar consumption and the increased risk for metabolic syndrome, research also shows a relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for death from heart disease.2
Clearly, what you drink matters when it comes to total nutrition and especially your heart health. Let’s rethink our drinks and choose better beverages, shall we?
Here are my top 5 beverage choices for better heart health:
1. Drink Water and Infused Water For Better Health
From helping you digest food to keeping your body temperature cool, your body uses water in all its cells. It makes sense then that your premier beverage choice be water. Tote a reusable water bottle around with you to stay hydrated on the go and grab a glass of H2O each time you pause to eat. For additional flavor and pizzazz, try infusing your water with fresh herbs (like mint or basil) and fruits (like berries or citrus fruits). You will stay hydrated, plus you’ll get the additional benefit of enjoying fresh produce when you finish your drink!
2. Choose Unsweetened Tea
Just one 16-ounce bottle of sweet tea can pack in over 44 grams of sugar – that’s 11 teaspoons (nearly ¼ cup!). Swap your sweet tea for unsweetened iced or hot tea for better heart health. As a bonus, research demonstrates that those who drink green tea often reduce their risk for a heart attack and stroke!3
3. Select Beverages High In Potassium
Potassium functions as sodium’s opposite. It helps the kidneys get rid of extra sodium and can help lower blood pressure. Foods like oranges, pomegranates and pineapple are helpful sources of potassium. As a first choice, enjoy these potassium-rich fruits whole. Or, for a drink that’s fun and flavorful, mix ½ cup of fruit juice with ½ cup of seltzer water. You’ll get a healthy dose of potassium plus that crispy fizz you crave!
4. Want a Smoothie? Balance Your Nutrients
Smoothies, opposed to juices, are full of fiber – which is helpful when talking heart health. Consuming more fiber is associated with a reduced risk of developing health conditions, including heart disease.4 But if all that is included is fruit, fruit juice and/or a sweetener in your smoothie, your drink can end up being entirely carbohydrates – giving you quick energy, but not quite enough for sustaining your energy throughout the hours following. Instead of adding multiple servings of fruit to a smoothie, perhaps choose one or two fruits, and then add in a source of healthy protein and fat (like hemp seeds or protein powder and avocado) to create a more balanced source of energy.
5. Sip On Your DHA/EPA
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may help to reduce the risk of heart disease in heart failure patients, so getting enough of these fatty acids in the diet is crucial.5-6 Sources of EPA and DHA include oily fish (like salmon, herring and mackerel), in fish oil supplements, and in fortified beverages that carry the MEG-3® logo.
1. Rosinger A, Herrick K, Gahche, J et al. Sugar-sweetened Beverage Consumption Among U.S. Adults, 2011–2014. NCHS Data Brief. 2017 Jan; 270. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db270.pdf
2. Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg E et al. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-524. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1819573
3. Pang J, Zhang Z, Zheng TZ et al. Green tea consumption and risk of cardiovascular and ischemic related diseases: A meta-analysis. Int J Cardiol. 2016 Jan 1;202:967-74. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2014.12.176. Epub 2015 Jan 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26318390
4. Dahl WJ and Stewart ML. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Nov;115(11):1861-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.003. http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(15)01386-6/abstract
5. Harris WS, Mozaffarian D, Lefevre M et al. Towards establishing dietary reference intakes for eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. J Nutr. 2009 Apr;139(4):804S-19S. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.101329. Epub 2009 Feb 25. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/4/804S.long
6. Djousse L, Akinkuolie AO, Wu JH et al. Fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acids and risk of heart failure: a meta-analysis. Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;31(6):846-53. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2012.05.010. Epub 2012 Jun 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509256/
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I would consider myself “Heart Smart.” I understand that having a healthy lifestyle can support the health of my heart.
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