Keep reading to see which beverages Long Cao, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas, recommends most to include in your heart-healthy regimen.
- Long Cao, MD, board-certified cardiologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas
5 of the best heart-healthy drinks, according to a cardiologist
ICYMI, staying hydrated is crucial for pretty much every aspect of your health, ranging from digestion and energy to even your mood. “Our bodies are made up of [about] 60 percent water, and it plays a vital role in how every cell and every organ in our body functions,” Dr. Cao explains. “Every chemical process in our body requires water as a reagent, a stimulus to work.” And your heart health is no exception.
“Your heart is constantly pumping blood through your body—on average, around 7,600 liters daily,” he continues. “Staying well hydrated helps your heart more easily pump blood to your muscles, which helps your muscles work more efficiently.” On the flip side, dehydration can make it more difficult for your heart to circulate blood. Dr. Cao says your heart will try to compensate by beating faster, but an elevated heart rate can lead to strain and contribute to greater issues down the line.
“Your heart is constantly pumping blood through your body—on average, around 7,600 liters daily. Staying well hydrated helps your heart more easily pump blood to your muscles, which helps your muscles work more efficiently.”—Long Cao, MD, board-certified cardiologist
As such, Dr. Cao advises sticking to the hydration guidelines set forth by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to reduce the risk of chronic disease. The daily recommendations are 3.7 liters (approximately 15.5 cups) of fluids for men and 2.7 liters (approximately 11.5 cups) of fluids for women. Those who exercise or sweat a lot, as well as people who live in hot climates, should aim for a bit more.
While plain H2O is a simple and foolproof option to boost hydration, the remaining drinks below—as well as water-rich foods—can also contribute to your daily intake.
2. Alkaline water
If you’re ready to take your heart-healthy hydration game to the next level, Dr. Cao suggests opting for alkaline water, as the body prefers to function in a neutral environment. “When we fight an infection, carry out daily bodily functions, or exercise, we tend to put our body in an acidic state which slows down the natural function of our organs,” he explains. He says that alkaline water not only helps to alleviate this problem, but also has specific benefits for heart health.
“The pH level of alkaline water is higher than tap water and is rich in alkalizing minerals, including calcium and magnesium,” Dr. Cao says. “Both have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.” In addition, he says that magnesium is effective to restore normal heart function while recovering from a heart attack.
3. Green tea
Doctors cite green tea as one of the best drinks for longevity. Plus, it’s one of the most commonly consumed teas in the Blue Zones (specific regions in which residents live the longest and healthiest lives in the world). So how does green tea promote cardiovascular health in particular? “It is packed with powerful antioxidants—especially one called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—which can help prevent atherosclerosis and plaque buildup in the arteries,” Dr. Cao shares. “These same antioxidants may alleviate pain by reducing inflammation and prevent cancer by preventing oxidation or radicals from injuring our cells and their DNA.” Moreover, he notes that green tea acts as a diuretic, which may reduce and regulate blood pressure for some people.
To max out the benefits of green tea for your heart and overall health, Dr. Cao recommends brewing one or two cups daily.
4. Oat milk
If there’s one alt-milk you should prioritize for heart health, Dr. Cao says it should be oat milk. “Oat milk is an easily digestible, low-saturated fat, low-sugar drink that contains nothing that could be bad for you,” he says. “It is high in beta-glucan—a type of soluble fiber with heart benefits—and oat milk may lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol by helping to reduce the adsorption of cholesterol particles.” It’s also a great option for people who are lactose intolerant or otherwise need to or prefer to avoid dairy.
Dr. Cao says a cup or two of oat milk a day will yield the biggest benefits, so go ahead and whip up a rich oat milk latte, pour it into a smoothie, or use it as a base for chia pudding.
5. Freshly squeezed juice
Last on our cardiologist-approved drink list: freshly squeezed fruit and/or veggie juices. “[They] provide vitamins, phytonutrients, polyphenols, and healthy natural sugars that can help prevent the hardening of arteries,” Dr. Cao explains. All the while, they promote healthy energy levels, bolster the immune system, and contribute to a nutrient-dense diet plan.
However, Dr. Cao shares two special considerations to remember. First, serving size is key. “Studies show that drinking no more than five ounces a day of freshly squeezed fruit and/or vegetable juice lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke,” he says. Second, he notes that this recommendation isn’t interchangeable with store-bought juices that contain additives and preservatives. “These juices are not fresh and may have been on the shelf for weeks, so 90 percent of what's good in them is gone. Many are also frozen or pasteurized, which ‘cooks’ away all of the good nutrients,” says Dr. Cao.
Going the freshly squeezed route may require more time, effort, and money, but know that it’ll be worth it. “It pays when it comes to your health,” Dr. Cao concludes.
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