The heart is one of the most important organs in the body. It is the organ responsible for pumping blood, a function that is very necessary for our survival. The moment the heart ceases to function, a person stops living. This is why we have to do a lot to ensure that our heart continues to function properly.
The heart is a very delicate organ that is susceptible to problems that could impair its function. Cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, cancer, and coronary artery disease, are one of the leading causes of death around the world. Certain things, from the food you eat to stress, and lifestyle choices, could increase the risk of having heart disease. Thus, taking care of the heart is very important.
Part of this care comes from eating foods that have nutrients that would keep the heart healthy. Most times, the foods we eat, especially processed foods, are bad for the heart. Instead, you should eat more foods that would help protect your heart.
In this article, we will be looking at some of the heart-healthy Nigerian foods.
1. Plantain Fufu
Plantain fufu is a staple food from unripe plantain, which is eaten as a swallow with soups in Nigeria. Plantain fufu is rich in potassium, which is vital for cell and body fluid maintenance. It also helps to regulate your blood pressure and heart rate.
Moreover, plantain fufu has a low cholesterol content, which helps to promote heart health.
You can never go wrong with vegetables in your food. Vegetables are some of the healthiest kinds of foods you can eat. They are rich in a range of nutrients, particularly vitamin K, which is good for the arteries, and even antioxidants. In Nigeria, there are many types of vegetables you can include in your diet, including spinach, pumpkin leaves (ugu), cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, bitter leaves and so on.
No matter the kind of vegetables you choose, you can be sure of the nutrients, not just your heart, but your whole body would gain from it. One good thing about vegetables is that you can enjoy them in different ways.
Yams are a good source of potassium and fiber, which are vital to your heart’s health. One study found that women who ate 390 grams of yams per day for 30 days had a 6% decrease in blood cholesterol levels.
To add to that, yam tubers also contain decent amounts of other micronutrients, such as copper, manganese, and vitamin C.
4. Whole Grains
If you are looking for another healthy food to eat for your heart, then stick with whole grains. Whole grains are grains that have all three parts intact. They have not been processed, so they have more nutrients than regular grains, including fibre, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and much more.
Examples of whole grains in Nigeria include brown rice, fonio (acha), whole wheat, oats, and more. Foods like oats are good for breakfast because they are very filling and nutritious. Brown rice can also replace the regular white rice you eat, as it is far more nutritious. You can also choose whole wheat bread over regular wheat bread.
5. Olive Oil
When compared to other popular oils in Nigeria, such as groundnut oil and palm oil, olive oil is the healthiest for the heart.
Olive oil is full of antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic disease. Also, it contains monounsaturated fatty acids and oleic acid, which many studies have linked with improvement in heart health.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have a lot more to offer besides their sweet taste. They are also rich in a range of nutrients, including calcium, folate, vitamin A & C, and lots more. Sweet potatoes are also rich in magnesium and potassium, two nutrients that help to relax the blood vessels, which helps prevent hypertension.
While eating sweet potatoes is good, you should not regularly fry them as too many fried foods is not good for the heart. There are many other ways to enjoy your potatoes without frying them.
Eating fish, especially those that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, is very good for the heart. Examples of such fish include sardine, tuna, mackerel, and salmon. These fish also contain other nutrients that would benefit the body.
8. Tiger nuts
Tiger nuts are another Nigerian food that is good for the health of your heart. The reason is that they contain a high amount of monounsaturated fats, which is great for the heart.
In addition, medical evidence also suggests that tiger nuts improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots — both of which can lower your risk of heart disease.
Legumes like beans, cowpea, and peas also contain nutrients, including B-complex vitamins, fibre, calcium, and niacin, that help to protect the heart and the blood vessels. Cowpea, which is the one with eating more in Nigeria, can be enjoyed in many ways.
10. Pure Cocoa Powder
Pure cocoa powder, also known as organic cocoa powder, is healthy food made from cocoa beans. It is sold in many parts of Nigeria and is used to make tea.
Cocoa powder is rich in flavanols, which help in lowering blood pressure by boosting nitric oxide levels and enhancing blood vessel function. It can also improve blood flow and reduce cholesterol, which alleviates your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
There are so many heart-healthy foods in Nigeria. These foods help you improve heart function, reduce bad cholesterol, and reduce the risk of developing heart diseases. Therefore, it is imperative that you regularly consume these Nigerian foods that are good for your heart.
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