We cannot underestimate the importance of a good diet, especially when it comes to keeping your heart healthy, now and in the years to come.
Introducing something as simple as antioxidant-rich vegetables, healthy oils and wholegrains to your diet can help to protect your heart and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Cardiovascular disease is the single biggest, preventable killer in the US and the UK.
It is responsible for 155,000 British deaths each year. Around 610,000 people die of heart disease in the US annually.
Top nutritionist and author Sarah Flower has put together her top food picks which can help to naturally improve the health of your heart.
Small changes can make a big difference, so try adding some of Sarah’s suggestions to your diet and start reaping the healthy benefits:
Garlic contains a range of vitamins and antioxidants which can benefit the health of your heart.
Allicin, found in garlic cloves, has been shown to help protect against heart disease and can lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.
It has also been shown to protect against some cancers and, due to its ability to protect against cellular damage and can even help protect you against Alzheimer’s.
Tomatoes are full of the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which has been clinically proven to actively help protect against high blood pressure, heart disease and cholesterol by preventing cells from becoming damaged.
Lycopene from tomatoes is more available and better absorbed by our body when the tomatoes are cooked, crushed or eaten with a little fat, such as olive oil or flax oil.
3. OILY FISH
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, which are rich in Omega 3, are an excellent source of selenium, vitamin D and protein.
Not only does oily fish help to lower triglycerides and protect you against heart disease, omega 3 has been shown to have an anti-clotting effect, helping to keep your blood flowing.
Studies have shown that those with a higher blood level of omega 3 are a third less likely to die of heart disease. The British Heart Foundation recommends those with heart disease eat 2 – 3 portions of omega 3 rich foods per week to improve the health of their heart.
Cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar and has a powerful anti-diabetic effect.
It can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as protecting you from degenerative diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
5. GREEN TEA
Green tea is particularly well known for its antioxidant effects, but not many people are aware that it can also help to improve the health of the cell lining in blood vessels (endothelial cells), which in turn, protects us against heart disease.
A study in Japan, where green tea is most widely consumed, found that it lowered the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease by 31 per cent in women and 22 per cent in men.
Grapefruit is another fruit which is packed with vitamin C, fibre, choline and lycopene.
It can help balance blood lipid levels, particularly triglycerides, which when in excess, have been shown to harden artery walls.
In addition, grapefruits are rich in pectin, a fat soluble fibre, which has been shown to slow down the progression of arteriosclerosis.
Grapefruits, especially red ones which have higher levels of lyocopene can also help to lower bad cholesterol.
Avocados, the superfood of the moment are particularly beneficial due to their high levels of vitamin B6, which help to regulate hormones.
They are also one of the richest sources of vitamin E and a good source of monosaturated fats, which helps to lower bad cholesterol.
Avocados also have an anti-inflammatory affect, again helping to prevent the hardening of artery walls.
8. DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate contains Phenethylamine, the chemical produced in our brains when we fall in love.
In trials, 45g of 85 per cent cocoa dark chocolate eaten every day was found to be effective in reducing fatigue, anxiety and depression, as well as restoring energy levels.
It has also been shown to contain antioxidants that can help protect your heart.
Rich in flavonols, dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and boost your metabolism for more effective fat burning.
Some studies have also shown the antioxidants in dark chocolate can prevent bad cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.
Oats are packed with a fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol.
Just one large serving of porridge each day can have a positive effect on lowering cholesterol!
10. REDUCE SALT
Well, “reduce” isn’t a name for the food, but too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure and therefore heart disease.
Reducing salt intake by just 1g each day would result in a staggering 6,000 fewer deaths from strokes or heart attacks each year.
To help reduce your intake, read food labels and avoid processed foods, which are not only packed with salt, but also higher in sugar and unhealthy fats.