Stocking your pantry or fridge with healthy food staples is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Healthy eating is an important part of looking after your heart. It can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels — not to mention, it keeps the weight off! Here’s a roundup of seven essential foods items all heart-conscious eaters should always have in their kitchen.
Health experts have heralded the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil for years. The ‘good’ fats found in olive oil are monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid has several health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and helping to prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity (both of these increase the risk of heart disease).
Olive oil is also anti-inflammatory, meaning it can help to prevent damage to arterial walls (the walls of blood vessels), a change that may lower the risk of heart disease. To fully reap all of the benefits, nutritionist Michaela Sparrow recommends taking a tablespoon of olive oil a day.
“Drizzle on salads or vegetables, and replace vegetable oils, such as canola and sunflower oil, with olive oil when cooking,” she tells Starts at 60.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found eating a cup of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent. This may be because blueberries are high in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which help to protect your heart.
It’s no secret avocados are good for your health. Eating one avocado per week is said to have multiple health benefits, including reducing arthritis symptoms, improving digestion and maintaining a healthy heart.
Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids just like olive oil, and can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels — which both increase your risk of heart disease.
“Make sure you get all of the avocado out of the shell, especially the darkest part as this contains the highest amount of the beneficial compounds,” Sparrow advises.
Sparrow says antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins, all of which are found in salmon, are linked to better heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids are said to lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting and reduce irregular heart beats.
Beetroots are rich in natural chemicals called nitrates, which Sparrow explains have been shown to reduce blood pressure. They’re also a good source of betalains, an antioxidant important for a healthy heart. Sparrow recommends roasting beetroots with a little olive oil or adding them into a smoothie or juice.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and lettuce contain high amounts of vitamin K, which plays a role in slowing calcium deposits in artery walls. According to Sparrow, calcium build-up is the main cause of heart disease. One study from Edith Cowan University found adding more greens to your diet could cut your risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 40 per cent.
Sparrow says tomato paste is loaded with antioxidants that are fantastic for heart health. It’s rich in a substance called lycopene, which is a carotenoid (fat-soluble pigment) that may help get rid of bad cholesterol. She recommends having one tablespoon of tomato paste daily, whether it’s plain, or mixed into a sauce.
“Tomato paste has [been] shown to have significant beneficial effects on stroke risk reduction, peripheral vascular disease, metabolic syndrome and many other cardiovascular diseases,” she adds.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.