Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight plays an important role in keeping an active heart. In the same way, if you’re looking to prevent heart disease and improve your cardiovascular health, fine-tuning your diet is as important.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and around the world – claiming more lives than all forms of cancers combined.
Significant lifestyle changes have greatly contributed to the emerging epidemic of chronic conditions like heart disease.
And just as how a healthy weight and being physically active helps in preventing heart disease, your diet and nutrition also influence your heart health. For example, a high intake of dietary fats strongly influences the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Having said that, there is no single food that can do the magic. Instead, an overall dietary pattern that is built around “real”, “unprocessed” and “fresh food” should be your heart-healthy diet goal.
1. Add more vegetables and fruits to your diet
Fruits and vegetables contain many important nutrients, especially fibre, which helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol that contributes to improving your heart functions.
In particular, green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach or collard greens are great sources of Vitamin K, a nutrient shown to protect blood arteries and promote the functions of cells – lining the blood vessels.
Additionally, just rising your produce intake to 10 servings a day may help lower your heart disease risk by 28%.
2. Limit unhealthy fats
Reducing the intake of saturated and trans fats is an important step to manage a healthy level of blood cholesterol in the body that contributes to lowering your risk for developing a range of health issues including cardiovascular disease.
You can replace unhealthy fats with good ones. For instance, an easy way could be limiting the use of butter, margarine and shortening while cooking or preparing meals.
3. Consume almonds and walnuts
Consuming nuts has shown to improve artery functions and reduce blood cholesterol. And when following a healthy-heart diet, almonds and walnuts make a greater choice.
Both almond and walnut contain plant omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium fibre and heart favourable monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
4. Berries are a superfood
Berries are not only delicious but packed with impressive health benefits. In addition to being packed with antioxidants, they are also low in calories, a good source of soluble fibre and have anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Fish and Omega-3 fatty acid for a healthy heart
If you’re concerned about your heart health, eating at least two servings of fatty fish in your weekly diet could reduce your risk for heart disease.
Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming them regularly is shown to decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, slow the growth of plaque in blood vessels and reduce your blood pressure all of which
All fatty fish are a versatile food, which means they can be cooked and consumed in many ways. You can either choose to grill it with a marinade, or chop some fresh tuna into your salad or add it to your pasta.
6. Steer away from salt
Eating too much salt in your diet contributes to high blood pressure, which is linked to conditions like heart failure, heart attack, strokes and kidney failure.
When it comes to selecting an alternative for table salt, you can choose to use any rock salt, Himalayan pink salt or sea salt.
7. Reduce highly processed food from your diet
Up to 35% of the average Australian diet is made of processed food and reducing them is a great way to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Things like chips, baked beans, chocolates and biscuits are high in added sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fats, all of which contribute to developing heart disease.
8. Say “yes” to plant-based protein
Protein-rich foods are good for your heart. But some protein choices are better than others.
For example, plant-based proteins are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and favoured over meat and poultry when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart.
9. Avocados can help reduce bad cholesterol
Avocados are an excellent source of healthy fats, and you must aim to include them in your heart healthy diet regularly.
Researchers have found that eating an avocado a day as a part of your heart healthy diet significantly helps to lower bad cholesterol. They are high in monounsaturated fats and potassium, both of which are vital nutrients for a healthy heart.
10. Dark chocolates are heart-healthy when eaten in moderation
Dark chocolates, when not loaded with sugar, are indeed a heart-healthy treat. They are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids, which can help boost heart health.