Heart disease is extremely common in North America and a poor diet and lifestyle is often to blame. With many of us living high stress lives due to daily demands and not taking time to cook or exercise, our health tends to suffer.
If heart disease is common in your family, take preventative measures now by cutting down on processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium while making time to prepare your own wholesome meals. I have broken down some specific health supportive foods and beverages to incorporate into your everyday diet.
Tomatoes are full of heart-healthy potassium that helps to balance the sodium in our diets, which in excess can increase blood pressure. They also contain a carotenoid called lycopene that opens blood vessels for greater flow to and from the heart. Try a hearty bowl of homemade vegetarian chili or an all natural tomato sauce for a concentrated source of lycopene.
Go Nuts for Nuts
Almonds, macadamia, Brazil nuts, pistachios and walnuts are all excellent sources of vitamin E; a factor in lowering “bad” cholesterol. May people avoid nuts because they are high in fat when in fact; those who consume them are more likely to have a lower body mass and less risk of heart disease. When choosing nuts, look for fresh, organic and raw varieties without added oil and salt.
Olives and cold pressed olive oils are a rich source of monounsaturated fat known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
They are abundant in the Mediterranean diet where heart disease is less common. Snacking on olives before dinner is a healthy way to satiate your hunger so you don’t over eat.
Lentils and Legumes
An excellent source of plant based protein, high in fibre and low in saturated fat; legumes, beans and lentils should be made a part of your daily diet if not already. Not only does the fibre lower cholesterol, it helps balance blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. One complication of diabetes can be heart disease. Try replacing a couple of animal protein meals during your week with ½ cup of lentils or beans or try this easy, all-natural lentil soup from Soup Girl.
Oats are another inexpensive source of soluable fibre. They act like a sponge in the digestive system by soaking up excess cholesterol and eliminated from the body. Make your own oatmeal in the morning with almond milk, cinnamon, chopped apple, crushed walnuts and a splash of pure maple syrup. This way you control the amount of sugar, fat and sodium that goes into your food.
Studies show that those who regularly sip this antioxidant rich beverage have a significant reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared to those who don't drink green tea. This powerful tea has also been linked to reduced sugar cravings. Try matcha green tea powder in your morning smoothie for an energy boost.
Also a high source of antioxidants, including heart-promoting polyphenols and anthocyanins which may help stave off hardening of the arteries and improve blood flow. Try them thrown into salads or top yogurt.
Raw, dark chocolate varieties made up of at least 60-70% cocoa contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation. Try to stay away from the milk varieties which are mostly sugar and dairy in order to reap all the benefits. Personally, I like to enjoy a couple squares of my favourite dark chocolate from Giddy Yo Yo everyday.
Red Wine –In Moderation!
A small glass of good quality red wine may help to reduce blood pressure, open the arteries and allow for greater blood flow. The Polyphenols also found in grape skin are a source of antioxidants which protect the heart and skin from aging.
Heart Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to including these specific foods in your diet, it's important to exercise regularly by increasing your heart rate. Find an activity you enjoy doing whether it's running, sports, yoga, dancing or simply going for a walk. Exercise also doubles as a stress relief which is an important factor in keeping your heart healthy.
Emily Sawyer is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a love for good, wholesome food. She is also the Director of Operations and Community Care at Jule's Wellness. Emily believes in living a balanced life for optimal health and well-being. This means not depriving yourself of the foods you love, but rather choosing healthier versions of them and eating mindfully. Her holistic approach to living encompasses the belief that the entire body is connected. Through her Holistic Health coaching services, Emily gives you the tools and support needed to live your best life.
Connect with Emily for a FREE 15 minute consultation.