It keeps you active, energetic and alive. It’s one of the most important organs in your body. We’re talking about your heart, the life force that helps you live a happy, healthy lifestyle.
And nothing matters more than taking good care of it! Getting regular exercise, refraining from smoking, and controlling stress are just a few recommendations, along with eating a variety of nutritious foods that make up a heart-healthy diet.
The following foods are known to boost nutritional goodness and are recommended for eating your way to a healthier heart.
- Apples: The old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, is now backed by scientific evidence as apples were shown to contain antioxidants, fibre and other beneficial compounds that can provide an impressive range of health benefits, including reducing the risks of heart disease. Apples are also a good source of pectin, a fibre that can lower cholesterol levels. So why not take time-tested advice and make an apple one of your daily fruit choices?
- Broccoli: A hearty, tasty vegetable, it’s richness in vitamin A, vitamin C and fibre, makes it a cardio preventive vegetable. You can eat it raw or steamed – as an appetizer with your favourite dip (like hummus or low fat labneh) or in salads and soups or in mixed dishes.
- Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries, in all their colours and rich flavours play an important role in decreasing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease by improving HDL “good” cholesterol levels. This is mainly due to the abundant antioxidants and phytochemicals they contain. Whatever your choice of colour or flavour, berries make a perfect combination when added to your milk shakes, fruit salads or your breakfast cereals.
- Olive Oil: It contains unsaturated fat, which can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing the LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood and increasing your HDL “good” cholesterol. So instead of using butter, tropical oils and hydrogenated margarines, replace them with heart healthy olive oil in your daily diet.
- Fish: In addition to containing lean protein and other healthy nutrients, oily fish like Salmon and Sardines contain a specific type of healthy fat, Omega-3 Fatty Acids that can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and improving overall cardiovascular health. Make sure you have at least two servings of fish each week – either baked, broiled, grilled or boiled rather than fried (which can actually increase the amount of unhealthy fats).
- Oats: Rich in soluble fibre, it helps reduce LDL cholesterol when included with your heart healthy diet. Studies have shown that in individuals with high cholesterol (above 220 mg/dl), consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fibre per day (approximately one bowl of oatmeal) significantly lowers total cholesterol levels. Start your day with a bowl of freshly cooked oatmeal and make the right choice for better heart health and more energy.
- Legumes: A rich source of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals, legumes are also low in fat. The fibre in legumes reduces cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol and carrying it out of the body. You can enjoy the health benefits of legumes by including white or red beans in your main dishes, salads and soups, hummus in your weekly menu and lentil soup as your starter from time to time.
- Nuts: One of the best plant-based sources of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, nuts are also rich in Vitamin E and fibre. All of these nutrients help reduce LDL cholesterol, decreasing the risk of developing blood clots and also improving the health of the lining of your arteries. However, you should eat only a small handful of nuts at a time, as they are rich in calories.
- Tomatoes: The redder and riper, the richer it is in Lycopene – a natural anti-oxidant that reduces the risk of heart disease. And better still, when you cook the tomatoes you even get more Lycopene and therefore more health benefits. So the next time you cook pasta sauces and stews, add a few fresh tomatoes to enhance the taste and heart-healthy qualities of your food.
- Antioxidant-rich beverages: Green tea and coffee are rich in heart healthy antioxidants which help prevent the build up of LDL cholesterol in artery walls, reducing the damage caused, and thereby protecting your blood vessels and heart health. It is recommended to consume them in moderation – an average of 3-4 cups per day.
All in all, following a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking, exercising and maintaining a wholesome, heart-healthy diet will help protect your heart for a healthy, energetic and happier life!