The Three Foods Cardiologists Swear By

The importance of heart health cannot be overstated. As the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States, heart disease is something we all need to be aware of, per the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). There are many things you can do to ensure your hard-working heart stays healthy, like staying physically active, reducing stress, refraining from smoking, and eating a healthy diet.

Your diet is of particular importance to your heart health due to its connection with the microbiome that makes up your gut. In fact, a 2017 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reviewed 19 different studies regarding the link between cardiovascular disease and unhealthy gut bacteria. They found that those with higher levels of bad gut bacteria had a 62% higher chance of experiencing a cardiovascular incident, like a heart attack or stroke, as well as a 63% higher risk of death.

"There's significant evidence that the gut microbiome is involved in human health in virtually all diseases," Dr. Raphael Kellman, physician of integrative and functional medicine, told Everyday Health. "Cardiovascular diseases, which are associated with high morbidity and mortality across the world, are no exception."

If you're wondering how to improve your heart health by way of your gut, it turns out there are a few food staples cardiologists recommend incorporating into your diet to ensure your ticker keeps ticking.

Cardiologist-recommended heart-healthy foods

Meat lovers rejoice! Although meat has not traditionally been considered helpful for heart health, it turns out there's nutritional value to be found, particularly in organ meat. Eating liver or kidneys may not be your first choice, but it turns out they're rich in heart-healthy minerals like zinc, magnesium, and choline, as well as vitamins A, B, D, E, and K (via MindBodyGreen).

If organ meat isn't your thing, you might be better off taking advantage of the heart-healthy benefits of beans and legumes. According to the American Heart Association, the high fiber content of plant-based proteins like beans and legumes can improve your total cholesterol levels, which lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition to meat and legumes, essential oils could also lead to better heart health. You may already be familiar with peppermint oil for aromatherapy purposes, but it turns out it can also improve your gut health. A 2005 study published in Phytomedicine found that ingesting peppermint oil significantly improved symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in participants. While there are proven benefits of using essential oils, do your research before incorporating them into your diet. "There's a very specific way to use them because you don't take them directly," cardiologist Dr. William Davis explained to MindBodyGreen. "They're very caustic, they can burn, so you want to dilute them heavily."