February is National Heart Health Month, and during this time, awareness of a variety of heart conditions are highlighted. Cardiovascular disease is both the UK’s and the world’s number one killer and it’s estimated that every 8 minutes someone in the UK dies from a heart related disease. It’s important to understand the things that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well the ways to help protect yourself from it.
Meditation, exercise and cutting down on alcohol are all things that can help boost the health of your heart, however diet also plays a big part in keeping your heart in check. In this blog we’ll discuss heart-healthy foods to fill your body with.
Diet plays a major role in heart health and can impact your risk of heart disease. In fact, certain foods can influence blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Here are 8 foods that you should be eating to keep your heart in check:
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach are well known for their bursting number of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In particular, they’re a great source of Vitamin K, which helps to protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting. They’re also high in dietary nitrates, which can help to reduce blood pressure, decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels. Some studies show that increasing the intake of leafy green vegetables was associated with up to a 16% lower incidence of heart disease.
Common types of wholegrain are: whole wheat, oats, brown rice, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa. Multiple studies have found that including more whole grains in your diet can benefit your heart health. Eating 3 or more servings of whole grains daily can decrease the risk of heart disease by up to 22%. These are flexible foods that you can do so much with! You can add them to soups, stews or have them as a side with your main meal!
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are jam-packed with nutrients that play a key role in heart health. Berries are also rich in antioxidants which protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to the development of heart disease. Eating berries can also help to reduce bad cholesterol, body mass index and the risk of blood pressure. They’re also great for people that have a sweet tooth and can suppress the sweet cravings!
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower rick of heart disease. They’re also rich in potassium, a nutrient that is essential to heart health. Just one avocado supplies 975 milligrams of potassium and getting 4.7 grams of potassium per day and decrease blood pressure!
Fatty fish and fish oil
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have huge benefits on heart health! Omega-3 can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure over a long period of time. If you’re not keen on eating fish, don’t worry as fish oil supplements have also been shown to benefit heart health. You can take daily supplements and still see the benefits.
The good news – dark chocolate is good for your heart! The bad new – only in moderation! Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that can help boost heart health. Consuming chocolate in moderation (less than 6 servings a week) may decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Be sure to pick a high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% and have it in moderation to make the most of its healthy heart benefits.
For centuries, garlic has been used a as natural remedy to treat a variety of ailments and in recent years it has been confirmed that it’s potent properties can help to improve heart health. This is thanks to the presence of a compound called allicin, which is believed to have a number of therapeutic effects. Some research has shown that taking garlic extract in doses of 600-1,500mg daily for 24 weeks was as effective as a common prescription drug at reducing blood pressure. Just remember to carry some mints around with you if you’re going to up your garlic intake!
Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds are all great sources of heart-healthy nutrients, including fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Adding these types of seeds to your diet can improve many risk factors, including inflammation, blood pressure and cholesterol. These seeds are great as they’re so versatile and can be added to porridge, salads, smoothies and even cakes!