According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, the cost of treating heart disease will triple in the US alone to $818 billion by 2030. It is the Number One killer in the US alone, with similar findings through Western Europe. The risk can be avoided with a combination of the right diet and exercise, so let’s start with the easier option; making simple changes to your diet and eating the right foods for our heart. We all know we should eat less salt and sugar and increase our intake of lean meat, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Specifically adding these into our diet won’t take much effort, but could make a huge difference.
- Salmon – Included in every dietician’s list of foods for your heart, salmon is full of Omega 3, an essential fatty acid. If you don’t like salmon, try mackerel, sardines, tuna or herring. Try eating them around three times a week in your diet for maximum effect. As an added benefit, they can also help those suffering with depression or bipolar disorder.
- Oats – A great way to start your day and full of more fatty acids, fibre and potassium. Try rolled oats rather than instant and make it with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk to avoid any resemblance to the gruel of Victorian England workhouses! Top it with berries (see (7) below), flaxseed or bananas for added flavor, vitamins and heart benefits!
- Olive Oil – The incidence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries such as Greece, where olive oil is traditionally used for cooking, is much lower than the US and the rest of Europe. Cook with olive oil rather than standard oil wherever you can, and use extra-virgin olive oil whenever you can.
- Avocado – Full of oleic acid (for cholesterol), potassium and folate (both good for preventing high blood pressure and heart disease), avocado can be a great addition to our diet. Try adding to sandwiches or eating with spinach and in salads.
- Nuts – Here they are again, those fatty acids! Walnuts, and almonds in particular, are full of Omega 3, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, great for your heart. Another option is peanut butter on toast for a healthy snack.
- Leafy green vegetables – Including spinach, cabbage and broccoli. Just think of Popeye! Spinach is packed with fibre and potassium, but if you can increase your weekly intake of vegetables across the board, your heart will benefit.
- Berries – Great sources of anti-oxidants and vitamins. Take your pick, blueberries, gooseberries, blackberries and raspberries, easy and tasty for snacks. Try at least a handful every day.
- Chickpeas/lentils/beans – What most vegetarians have known for a while, these pulses are packed with antioxidants, potassium, folate and fibre, all proven to reduce cholesterol and help in our fight against heart disease.
- Dark Chocolate – For those of you with little resistance, who are thinking how boring or tedious this list sounds, we’ve saved the best until last! For the milk chocolate lovers, dark chocolate is an acquired taste, but a small (just one!) bar of pure dark chocolate every day can help prevent cholesterol and heart disease. Please note, milk chocolate does NOT have the same benefits.
- Red Wine – in moderation (one glass per day) Red wine can help to prevent heart attacks. It is full of phenols, which are anti-oxidants. So once you’ve incorporated regular healthy ways of eating into your diet, you can treat yourself at the end of the day, knowing that you are still helping your heart.
Start incorporating these subtle changes into your diet today for maximum benefit to your health and fitness – and you never know, you might even grow to like them!