When it comes to our hearts, the simplest way to keep them healthy is by following a healthy lifestyle. This involves achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, avoiding smoking and, of course, following a healthy diet. There are a few things you can do immediately to get started on the road to a healthier heart.These include; limiting your salt consumption, cutting down on alcohol, and swapping out unhealthy fats for healthy fats – but what about specific foods? There are many foods that can benefit our hearts in various ways, some keep our cholesterol levels in check while others may help lower your blood pressure – let’s explore!
According to a study published in the Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, consuming fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, up to four times a week, may help increase the amount of good cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
For the study, around 100 men and women aged 40-70 were divided into groups; 1 being lean fish, another fatty fish and the last being the control group. The participants also ALL had impaired glucose metabolism. This meant that blood glucose is raised beyond normal levels, but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis. Impaired glucose metabolism carries a great risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The study found that fatty fish increased amount of “good” cholesterol in people with impaired glucose metabolism, in turn, reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications. The omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish were found to have a dramatic, positive impact on the size of composition of good cholesterol.
Interestingly, the lean fish group didn’t record any positive developments in bad cholesterol composition.
We love Avocados, not only are they delicious and nutritious but they’re breaking down the walls surrounding the word “fat”.
When it comes to food, “fat” is a word that has been consistently negatively portrayed, but actually – there is such a thing as “good fat”.
Such fat is found in avocados in the form of unsaturated fatty acids. As well as being healthy, these fats are thought to lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. As wonderful as this is however, do watch your portions as avocados are quite high in calories.
Another one of those popular foods that have cropped up everywhere over the last few years, flax seeds are a popular superfood often found accompanying cereals and crowding the health-food aisle at the supermarket.
The reasons for the popularity of flax seeds are affordability, value (a little goes a long way) and the amazing health benefits they can deliver.
Flax seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, meaning that they share many of the same health benefits as fish. They also contain antioxidants that help to counter the effects of consuming a diet high in processed foods, very beneficial for the heart – and diabetics also.
Just 1-2 tablespoons of flax seed (ground or whole) is recommended as part of your daily fat intake. Flax seeds are nutrient dense but high in fat so only need to be used in small portions so it is best enjoyed sprinkled on cereal or infused in smoothies.
You cannot go wrong with olive oil – full of powerful, anti-inflammatory antioxidants and a great flavour-booster to drizzle over your meals. Additionally, olive oil sports a very low proportion of saturated (unhealthy) fat and a very high proportion of monounsaturated (healthy) fat when compared with other cooking oils. While some regard the use of olive oil as a silly choice for high temperature cooking, olive oil is actually well-suited to cooking most dishes due to its high quality. Do be sure to replace your olive oil every couple of months as the oil drops in quality, and antioxidants, over time. Additionally, try to remember that, spray olive oils don’t contain the same nutritional qualities as fresh oils. Just 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day is all you need for heart- health benefits.
Brown/red rice, oats, whole grain breads and quinoa are just a few examples of foods that will give you your whole grain fix. Whole grains are packed to the brim with fibre that can prevent the absorption of some unhealthy fats and regulate the digestive tract. Whole grain foods in the place of some refined grains such as white rice, wraps, crackers and biscuits can also help to stabilise your blood sugar levels as well as lower you cholesterol content.
Just be cautious not to overdo it on the portions as too much of a good thing may rise your sugars and cause a little bit of abdominal distention and gas due to their fibre content.