Salmon, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which have a wealth of health properties. Studies have shown that omega 3 rich diets regulate heart beats and drastically reduce build ups in the arteries. Oily fish also decreases triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) keeping the blood at a good consistency.
Wholegrains and oats
Oats and wholegrain are a high fibre foods which are great for digestion generally. In addition such foods absorb cholesterol in the digestive tract so it bypasses the bloodstream by eliminating it from the body. Oats are best eaten in home-made porridge as the instant oats often have added sugars and flavours. A homemade flapjack substituting honey for syrup and coconut oil for butter is another easy to make and healthy alternative. Wholegrain bread, cereal and pasta are also great options.
Dark, cocoa-rich, chocolate has been found to reduce the incidents of non-fatal heart attacks and strokes. So, although it may sound somewhat indulgent, introducing a little plain chocolate to your diet is beneficial for the heart. Treat yourself to a bar with 60-70% cocoa solids to ensure you ingest its polyphenols, flavonoids which bring down blood pressure and reduce blood clotting.
Oranges, lemons and grapefruits are rich in vitamin C which has been linked by many studies to a lower risk of heart disease amongst those with diets that feature them regularly. In addition to the vitamin boost, citrus fruits have a flavonoid which lowers risk of ischemic stroke; the type of stroke brought on by a blood clot. They’re also rich in hesperidin which balance blood pressure and protect arteries.
To fully benefit eat the fruit whole to get the fibre too or make your own juice to avoid added sugars and preservatives.
Chickpeas, lentils and beans are highly fibrous, so like wholegrains and oats they absorb and eliminate cholesterol, keeping levels low. Again these are best eaten fresh and can make fantastic salads. If you’re a humus lover and own a nutriblaster it’s really easy to make your own either following the traditional recipe or adding a twist with chilli peppers if you like a little spice. Dip in some wholegrain bread and you’ve got the ultimate cholesterol-busting snack.
Most would think a food rich in fat should be avoided when protecting the heart, but many fats are actually good for you and an avocado is loaded with such fats. They’re monounsaturated which means their structure enables the body to absorb a whole range of nutrients while keeping those all-important cholesterol levels low.
Avocados are also packed with potassium, which keeps blood pressure regular. It’s more concentrated in the dark green areas from nearer the skin so peel frugally.
Some use this versatile fruit as a butter substitute, it’s a great salad ingredient and sandwich filler too. However avocados are high in calories, so make sure you take this into consideration when looking at your diet overall.
Cooked, raw or blended this versatile superfood makes it to the heart hall of fame because of its high folate content. Folate is one of the B vitamins which plays a vital role in managing the amino acid homocysteine and so keeps the arteries healthy. As well as being great for the heart it also is great for the blood as it’s high in iron as well as featuring cancer-fighting phyto chemicals.