A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and there are some extremely beneficial foods that can help take care of your heart. These include:
Fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals
The fibre and other important nutrients like potassium that are found in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of blood pressure and cholesterol. Wholegrains like oats, barley, legumes and foods derived from wholegrains such as wholegrain bread and wholegrain breakfast cereals contain soluble fibre. Soluble fibre can bind cholesterol in the intestines and remove it from the body.
Plant based protein such as legumes
Legumes reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). LDL causes fats to deposit on the blood vessels and increases risk of heart disease while HDL causes fats to move away from blood vessels reducing the risk of heart disease. Also due to their fibre content, they keep you full for longer and contribute to weight management. Examples of legumes include chickpeas, butter beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, peas and lentils.
Fish and seafood
Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation and the level of triglycerides (unhealthy fat) in the blood. Good sources of omega-3 include salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines.
Reduced fat dairy
Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese provide important nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamins A and D, iodine, zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Most of the fat in milk, cheese and yoghurt is saturated fat though which is associated with increasing risk of heart disease. Opt for reduced fat dairy options instead to reduce the saturated fat in your diet.
Reduce salt intake
We consume more salt than we require from processed and refined foods, as well as added salt in food. The chemical composition of salt is sodium chloride. Our kidneys are responsible for controlling the level of sodium in the blood. When we eat more than we require it makes it hard for the kidneys to clear the sodium levels in the blood. This then increases blood pressure.
Nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil
Nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil contain unsaturated fat which promotes good cholesterol(HDL) and decreases bad cholesterol (LDL). Studies have found that eating a handful of nuts (30g) everyday reduces the risk of developing heart disease by up to 50%. Nuts also contain antioxidants and anti- inflammatory compounds such as vitamin E and polyphenols which positively influence heart health. Try to steer away from butter, lard, palm oil and coconut oil which contain large amounts of saturated fat.
Dietary changes play a big role in reducing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes are caused when fatty deposits create plaques. These plaques block blood vessels and hence reduce the flow of oxygen to essential organs such as the brain. Besides including these beneficial foods in the diet, it is important to exercise regularly, avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.