5 Foods for heart health
21 Nov 2013

5 Foods for Heart Health

2 mins to read
Eating a healthy diet is one way to keep your heart healthy and modify your risks. Naturopath Kellie Daley highlights 5 of the best foods to look after the heart.

Did you know that the majority of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated or modified, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity and diabetes?

Here are my top 5 foods for heart health. 

1. Blueberries
Blueberries are known for their antioxidant activity. Antioxidant anthocyanins not only give this fruit its dark blue colour but also help to maintain vascular health. These tiny sweet berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them one of the top healthy food choices of naturopaths and nutritionists.

Tip: throw a handful into your smoothies to increase your antioxidant intake.  

2. Oats
Not only loved by the beauty industry but also by your heart!

Oats are a great source of B vitamins including folate and also contain minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and zinc. Some would even call them a superfood!! 

Oats not only help keep you regular, they also help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels due to their soluble fibre content. 

Tip: not only a perfect breakfast food creating a feeling of fullness they are also a great ingredient to throw into your muffin mixes. 

3. Garlic
The Mediterraneans love it, eating it as an oil, raw or cooked. The effects of this simple bulb are grossly underrated. It contains zinc, selenium, vitamin A and C, iron, manganese and B vitamins. Garlic is also good for our hearts and may help to maintain normal blood pressure and healthy cholesterol levels.

Tip: a great addition to summer salad dressings. Try adding to some olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice with a few fresh herbs. 

4. Tomatoes
Red Cherry, Roma, Tommy Toe, Tiny Tim or Teardrop, eat them raw, canned, oven roasted, grilled or sun-dried.

Whichever way you eat them, they are full of goodness. Another food found in the famously healthy Mediterranean diet, tomatoes contains the carotenoid lycopene. Lycopene has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help support the health of your heart.

Tip: make a mean toasted sandwich or green salad with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and fetta with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or why not try this recipe for Tomato and Mustard Chutney from Cook Republic.

5. Oily Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oils from cold water fish such as tuna, sardines and salmon. Another type of oil you will find Omega-3 in is linseed oil (flaxseeds).  

Omega-3 have a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure and normal levels of blood triglycerides. It is advised that people replace saturated and trans-fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats which help to maintain cardiovascular health. 

Tip:  Eat two to three serves of oily fish a week. A serving size of fish is 150 grams or approximately the size of your whole hand. Use fish oil capsules and omega-3 enriched foods and drinks to supplement your intake of omega-3 fats.

The ‘good’ fats – what are they and what foods can I get them from?
Adequate amounts of ‘good’ fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are essential to our heart health. Fat in foods not only supplies energy for our body but it also contains essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins  (vitamins A,D, E and K), which carry out various functions within the body such as helping maintain immune health, night vision and effective blood clotting mechanisms.

So what’s the difference between the two fats you ask?
Monounsaturated fats are plant-based oils such as olive, canola, avocados and nuts\. Unlike saturated fats, monounsaturated fats help lower cholesterol levels in your blood. 

Polyunsaturated fats are commonly referred to as essential fatty acids (EFA’s), meaning they are essential in the diet because they can’t be made in adequate amounts by the body. Nevertheless, when it comes to polyunsaturated fats there is not only Omega-3 mainly found in cold water fish there is also another type called Omega-6.

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils sunflower oil and are responsible for cell structure and help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Tip: Use spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil and dairy blends instead of butter. Other foods and oils, such as avocado, hummus and olive oil can be used as an alternative to spreads and margarine two to three times a week.

References available on request

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