Let’s Eat for the Heart of It
I always feel inspired by the Mediterranean – the blue sea, friendly people, gorgeous landscape and the food! Oh, the food!! It turns out their diet consisting mainly of whole, real foods, such as olive oil, lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and a glass or two of red wine, really not only tastes good but is SO good for you.
Cardiovascular disease, namely heart disease and stroke, continues to reign as the leading cause of death in Canada and the United States. Yet, this is a lifestyle disease that can be largely prevented by not smoking, making healthful choices, increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight. When it comes to your diet, reducing processed foods, refined and hydrogenated oils, as well as simple sugars will go a long way in reducing your heart disease risks.
So how should we be eating? Research demonstrates the Mediterranean way of life and food is particularly good when it comes to reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. In particular the antioxidant effects of all these nourishing foods giving the biggest boost to a healthy heart. As the saying goes, you are what you eat.
Here are 5 foods to incorporate into your diet for a healthy heart:
1. Water — Keeping well-hydrated can help maintain healthy blood flow. As little as five or six glasses a day can cut your risk of heart disease in half.
2. Eat the rainbow — of fruits and vegetables that is. A brightly coloured diet provides a variety of antioxidants that are beneficial for your heart.
3. Fibre — when choosing more plants for your diet, aim for 30 different plants per week in order to get a variety of different plant microbes and fibre. Whole grains, oats, legumes, fruit, vegetables, etc. will boost your fibre intake which has been shown to provide heart health benefits, especially for reducing cholesterol levels. Think of fibre as a sponge, mopping up all that extra cholesterol.
4. Extra virgin olive oil — make your salad dressing, drizzle it over steamed veggies, and even take a spoonful, trust me it’s that delicious (and will also give some digestive relief at the same time). This gorgeous, and delicious oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which provides tremendous benefits for heart health. It also provides antioxidants which will help decrease free radicals, as well as high blood pressure.
5. Fish — cold water fatty fish provides the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are considered to be the most cardio-protective of all fatty acids. Salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel are your best bet for heart health. You can supplement your diet with omega-3 fatty acids in either softgel or liquid form; aim for 1500 mg per day.
And as an added bonus, the antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine has been shown to provide heart-health benefits. I will cheers to that!
Other lifestyle modifications such as increasing body movement/exercise, getting plenty of sleep, not smoking and reducing stress all help keep your heart in tip top shape.
In an era where healthy living has become a priority, there is without a doubt what you put in your mouth each day, and how you choose to live will impact your overall well-being. The benefits you will reap from a few simple, healthy, and might I add, delicious changes to your diet will be felt in so many other ways. Eating healthy has never felt better.