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Lifestyle, Nutrition

5 Foods To Keep Your Heart Healthy

A healthy heart is at the centre of a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle. Food has a direct impact on many aspects of your health, including your heart health.

There are certain foods that can improve your cholesterol levels, and certain foods whose nutrient profile can be beneficial to the overall health of your heart.

Here we will take a look at some specific foods which can be useful to include in your diet, along with broader lifestyle changes that you could implement to improve the health of your heart and indeed the state of your health overall.

How Food Can Impact Your Heart Health

What you eat affects your entire system. So many risk factors associated with heart disease are diet related, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

The types of foods that we consume can either make the chances of developing heart disease more or less likely. With a little bit of knowledge, you can start to change your diet to incorporate the types of foods that will make your heart healthy and strong.

The first place to start would be to reduce your intake of processed foods and to try and include as many foods as possible that are in their natural state, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean meats. The less processed the better.

By understanding how many calories you need each day, and the ratios of protein, carbs and fats that will support your body type and your goals, you can ensure you’re getting enough nutrients on board and avoid over eating at the same time.

With that in mind, here are 5 specific foods that you can look to include in your diet which have been shown to contribute to a healthy heart.

Whole Grains

Refined carbohydrates can increase the risk of heart disease. Whole grains on the other hand are protective of your heart. The fibre content of grains that are unprocessed have been linked to reduced LDL cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. Foods with high levels of soluble fibre (for example, wild rice, legumes and barley) are great for lowering total cholesterol levels.

Apples

Apples have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. This is because they contain many different compounds that improve various factors related to heart health. For example, they contain a phytochemical called quercetin which acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. They also contain a lot of soluble fibre and polyphenols which may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Apples are a delicious snack and available most of the year, and there are plenty of varieties to choose from.

Olive Oil

Olive oil can protect your heart by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol levels. It may also slow down aging of the heart, by reducing the damage caused to cells in the walls of the arteries that help with blood flow.

Choose to cook with olive oil, or better still add it to your foods once taken off the heat to maximise vitamin and antioxidant content.

Seeds

Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds are all great sources of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids which are great for your heart. Adding these types of seeds to your diet can reduce many factors that contribute to heart disease, such as inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.

You can get your fill of sunflower seeds with our meals! Try the Korean Beef Bulgogi, Beef Keema and Chicken Korma, all with a delicious blend of brown rice and sunflower seeds.

Vegetables

Including vegetables in your diet is beneficial for many reasons. Just like fruits, vegetables are nutrient rich, boasting many vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. Additionally, they are low in calories and fat, making them a heart-healthy choice.

Dietary fibre from whole foods, including vegetables, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing total and LDL cholesterol levels.

Fibre, potassium and other micronutrients (such as antioxidants) in fruit and vegetables offer protection against heart disease. They are also an important source of folate – which is good for your heart.

Lifestyle And Heart Health

One of the biggest contributors to heart disease is a lack of commitment to a heart healthy lifestyle. Your lifestyle is not only your best defence against heart disease and stroke, it's also your responsibility. Here are a few very simple steps that you can follow to reduce the risk:

Avoid Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption has been associated with increased risk for heart disease, among other illnesses. Studies show the harm occurs once you start having more than around 100 grams of alcohol, which works out to be around 7 drinks per week.

Stop Smoking

This should come as no surprise, but smoking really does not do your heart any favours. All addictions are difficult to overcome, but the rewards of a life free from cigarettes will be well worth the effort, greatly reducing your risk of heart disease and many other forms of illness.

Reduce Stress

A few studies have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person's life that may affect the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would.

It’s a tricky one to manage as we each are impacted by daily stresses in our unique ways, but taking time out to consciously relax and let go of our internal energies and thought patterns can help to bring more peace in to your day.

Be Physically Active Every Day

This is a bit of a no-brainer as exercise just makes you feel good. It gets the heart pumping, the blood flowing and the feel good chemicals moving through your system. Research has shown that at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level. On the surface it sounds like a lot, but if you spread it out over the course of a week it works out to be 20 minutes of exercise per day. Piece of cake!

If you’re new to exercise, you can take it easy at first. Walking for a few minutes around the block is better than nothing and will help to set you on a path to a healthier heart.