If you want to support your heart and cardiovascular system, then nutrition will always play a big role. Most people know that following a healthy diet – especially a plant-based diet or the Mediterranean Diet – will have a positive benefit on heart health. But there are key nutrients that have added benefits if you are looking to go beyond diet and lifestyle. Here are five of them:
This important mineral plays a role in all of the cells in the body and is involved in as many as 600 enzymatic processes. In addition, magnesium is needed to regulate heart rate and rhythm and to help maintain normal blood pressure.*
Magnesium deficiency is common in North America because diets tend to be low in magnesium-rich foods.
For this reason, individuals seeking the cardiac benefits of this mineral might need a magnesium supplement to achieve an optimal level.*
Folate, a B vitamin primarily known for its importance in fetal development, is also necessary for the production of neurotransmitters and for making blood cells.* The active form of folate – 5MTHF – acts as what is called a methyl-donor.*
Although methyl donation is vital to many of the body’s biochemical processes, perhaps most importantly it facilitates the conversion of the amino acid homocysteine to methionine.*
If the body does not have enough methyl-donating capacity to perform this conversion, then homocysteine levels can build up and become a risk factor for a number of undesirable health conditions; for example, a high homocysteine level can contribute to the development of numerous adverse cardiovascular health conditions.*
In addition to its well-known role in facilitating normal blood clotting, vitamin K is increasingly being studied and recommended for its heart health benefits.*
Particularly in the form of vitamin K2 (there are multiple forms of vitamin K in the body), this nutrient helps direct calcium to go to the bones, where it is needed, and not to deposit in the walls of blood vessels, where it is not needed.*
This is important for cardiovascular health, because calcium deposits in the arteries grow more common with age, and likely affect 30% of adults older than age 45. When too much calcium builds up in blood vessels they become stiff, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body.*
Possibly the most well-known nutrients for heart health are omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil. The two most important of these fatty acids – EPA and DHA – are beneficial for the entire cardiovascular system.*
EPA and DHA support good circulation by promoting healthy blood vessels, enhancing blood flow, and maintaining normal triglyceride and cholesterol levels.*
Although it would be great to include regular consumption of fatty fish in your diet – like tuna, salmon, anchovies, and sardines – few people eat enough of these foods to optimize the levels of these important nutrients. The good news is that taking a high-quality fish oil supplement can make up the difference in what your diet might lack.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10 for short) is an antioxidant nutrient that protects cells and plays a crucial role in energy production in the body.* This makes CoQ10 particularly important for those cells of the body that use the most energy, such as the cells of the heart.*
By maintaining this energy production, CoQ10 promotes normal heart and blood vessel function.*
Although humans can make CoQ10 – and it can also be found naturally in some meats and fish (especially organ meats and fatty fish), peanuts, soybeans, broccoli and strawberries – some individuals can benefit from a concentrated level available in a supplement.
- Archives of Internal Medicine 2009 Apr 13;169(7):659-669.
- Chakraborti S, Chakraborti T, Mandal M, et al. Protective role of magnesium in cardiovascular [health]: a review. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 2002 Sep 1;238(1-2):163-179.
- Humphrey L, Fu R, Rogers K, et al. Homocysteine level and coronary heart [health]: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2008 Nov 1;83(11):1203-1212.
- Bild D, Detrano R, Peterson D, et al. Ethnic differences in coronary calcification: The Multi-Ethnic Study of [Heart Health]. Circulation2005;111:1313-1320.
- Hooper L, Thompson R, Harrison R, et al. Risks and benefits of omega 3 fats . . . a systematic review. BMJ 2006 Mar 30;332(7544):752-760.
- Sarter B. Coenzyme Q10 and cardiovascular [health]: a review. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2002 Jul 1;16(4):9-20.