Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is actually the term used for a range of conditions relating to our heart and blood vessels and includes coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure. At the moment in Australia, the main cause of CVD is probably atherosclerosis. This is where we get deposits of fats and cholesterol in our arteries. It’s thought the atherosclerosis is what causes blockages in the blood supply to the heart or brain leading to a stroke, heart attack or angina (chest pain).
As with all sorts of health conditions, a lot of the diet advice out there tends to talk about what’s good and what’s bad to eat. Of course we all then tend to worry we will be missing out on foods we like and start to feel somewhat deprived (and possibly unhappy ).
Today I only want to focus on what WE CAN EAT. The reason being, if you can think about adding things to your diet for good health rather than taking away anything – it becomes more positive, less restrictive and less like a “DIET”. (p.s – if you would like to learn more about this non-diet approach you can read a little more here).
So here are my top 4 food tips for a healthy heart:
1. Eat more fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables not only contain fibre, vitamins and minerals but also phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are chemicals in food that have a protective effect against certain health conditions including heart disease. Adding just a little extra fruit or vegetables at each meal-time can make a big difference. For example, try adding some fruit to your breakfast cereal, including a smoothie in your day, making sure at least half of your plate contains vegetables or adding extra grated vegies or leftover veg to one pot/casserole style dishes.
2. Include nuts in your diet
A reduced risk for heart disease has been shown in people who have a handful of nuts each day. Nuts are full of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fibre and protein. They have been associated with reducing the LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad one) and keeping healthy blood vessels.
3. Include oats and barley in your diet
These wholegrains contain a kind of fibre called beta-glucan which has been linked with lowering LDL cholesterol and therefore these grains have a beneficial effect on our heart health. Woo hoo!
4. Remember the heart health fats like oily fish and olive oil.
Oily Fish like salmon, tuna and sardines are high in Omega 3 fats. The Omega 3 fats appear to have a protective effect on heart health by decreasing undesirable triglycerides, their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to act as a blood thinner (reducing the chance of blood clots). Similarly, olive oil has some awesome benefits due to it’s high levels of monounsaturated fat and anti-oxidants. It has been associated with increasing our HDL cholesterol and decreasing our triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and risk of oxidative damage.
So there you go. Four things we can all eat for a healthy heart.