You cannot underestimate the importance of a good diet, especially when it comes to keeping your heart healthy, now and in the years to come. Introducing antioxidant-rich vegetables, healthy oils and wholegrains to your diet can help to protect your heart and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
With cardiovascular disease remaining one of the biggest, preventable killers in the UK, top nutritionist and author Sarah Flower has put together her top food picks which can help to naturally improve the health of your heart. Small changes can make a big difference, so try adding some of Sarah’s suggestions to your diet and start reaping the healthy benefits:
Garlic contains a range of vitamins and antioxidants which can benefit the health of your heart. Allicin, found in garlic cloves, has been shown to help protect against heart disease and can lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. It has also been shown to protect against some cancers and, due to its ability to protect against cellular damage, can even help protect you against Alzheimer’s.
Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which can actively help protect against high blood pressure, heart disease and cholesterol. Studies have also shown it can help pre-menopausal women protect themselves from loss of bone density. Lycopene from tomatoes is more available and better absorbed by our body when the tomatoes are cooked, crushed or eaten with a little fat, such as olive oil or flax oil. To ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of lycopene in your diet, I recommend CardioMato, a unique supplement which is clinically proven to support cardiovascular health and contribute to normal heart function, with results in just six weeks.
3. Oily Fish
Oily fish which is rich in omega 3, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, are an excellent source of selenium, vitamin D and protein. Not only does oily fish help to lower triglycerides and protects you against heart disease, omega 3 has been shown to have an anti-clotting affect, helping to keep your blood flowing. Studies have shown that those with a higher blood level of omega 3 are a third less likely to die of heart disease. The British Heart Foundation recommends those with heart disease eat 2 – 3 portions of omega 3 rich foods per week to improve the health of their heart.
Cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar and has a powerful antidiabetic affect. It can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as protecting you from degenerative diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
5. Green tea
Green tea is particularly well known for its antioxidant affects, but not many people are aware that it can also help to improve the health of the cell lining in blood vessels (endothelial cells), which in turn, protects us against heart disease. A study in Japan, where green tea is most widely consumed, found that it lowered the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease by 31 percent in women and 22 percent in men.
Grapefruit is another fruit which is packed with vitamin C, fibre, choline and lycopene. It can also help balance blood lipid levels, particularly triglycerides, which when in excess, have been shown to harden artery walls. In addition, grapefruits are rich in pectin, a fat soluble fibre, which has been shown to slow down the progression of arteriosclerosis. Grapefruits can also help to lower bad cholesterol – red grapefruits in particular, likely due to the higher levels of lycopene.
The superfood of the moment, avocados are particularly beneficial due to their high levels of vitamin B6, which helps to regulate hormones. They are also one of the richest sources of vitamin E and a good source of monosaturated fats, which helps to lower bad cholesterol. Avocados also have an anti-inflammatory affect, again helping to prevent the hardening of artery walls.
8. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains Phenethylamine, the chemical we produce in our brains when we fall in love. In trials, 45g of 85% cocoa dark chocolate eaten every day was found to be effective in reducing fatigue, anxiety and depression, as well as restoring energy levels. It has also been shown to contain antioxidants that help protect your heart. Rich in flavonols, dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and boost your metabolism for more effective fat burning. Some studies have also shown the antioxidants in dark chocolate can prevent bad cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.
Oats are packed with a fibre called beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol. Just one large serving of porridge each day can have a positive effect on lowering cholesterol!
10. Reduce Salt
Too much salt increases your risk of high blood pressure and therefore heart disease. Reducing salt intake by just 1g each day would result in a staggering 6,000 fewer deaths from strokes or heart attacks each year. Excess salt consumption is such a big issue that the World Health Organisation recognises likens it to giving up smoking. To help reduce your intake, read food labels and avoid processed foods, which are not only packed with salt, but also higher in sugar and bad fats.