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Keep your heart healthy this February
With February being the month for all things love, romance and big red hearts, it is also an opportune time to talk about heart health, or more specifically the foods known to keep our hearts healthy. When it comes to heart health, Australians are not doing overly well. Heart disease remains our biggest killer yet many cases of heart disease could actually be prevented when the right lifestyle factors are targeted. So if you do have high cholesterol or blood pressure, or simply want to eat better to help lose a few kilos, here are some of the best foods for the heart.
While we hear much about the wonders of coconut oil, the truth is that when it comes to looking at the research that supports the health benefits of any particular oil, you cannot go past olive oil. Great for the skin, with exceptionally high levels of powerful antioxidants that help to protect our cells from damage and as an addition to any meal to help boost satiety fullness, olive oil has one of the highest proportions of monounsaturated fat and lowest proportion of saturated fat of all the cooking oils available. Often considered a poor choice for cooking at high temperatures, the truth is that the high quality of olive oil means that it can be used in most dishes with the exception of deep frying, as well as used as a flavoursome dressing. The fresher the olive oil, the higher the antioxidant content so replace your olive oil every 2-3 months. Also keep in mind that ‘light’ varieties are not lighter in fat or calories and spray varieties lack the nutrient quality of fresh oil. Research suggests that including as much as 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day will help you to reap the many health benefits
Legumes or beans have made somewhat of a comeback in recent years with cannellini, kidney and borlotti beans featuring regularly in a range of cuisines including Mexican, Italian and Lebanese. All beans are extremely nutritious containing a mix of low glycaemic index carbohydrates, dietary fibre and protein; their relatively high protein content making them a popular meat substitute for vegetarians. The soluble fibre found in beans has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels and beans also contain high levels of B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium as well as folate. While legumes are often used as the base of meals for vegetarians, beans can also be used in range of meals including mince, soups and salads for extra bulk and an extra nutrition hit. And best of all, legumes are extremely cheap, making them a most economically addition to any meal.
Oily fish including fresh salmon, sardines, tuna and snapper is an excellent source of the heart-healthy omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA have profound effects on heart health, ranging from decreasing triglyceride levels — an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease — to reducing the risk of sudden death from heart attacks by almost 50 percent.
We should eat a serve of nuts every day for a healthy heart. Yes, it is true – nuts are very good for us. In fact, a 30g serving a day is actually linked to weight control long term. Unfortunately, as is the case with many things in life, more is not better and knowing that nuts are good for us does not mean we can eat them in unlimited volumes. In fact, we only need 30-50g of nuts each day to reap the numerous health benefits. Nuts, like seeds and grains are relatively high in fat with a small serve providing between 20-30g of fat in total. The good news is that the fat found in nuts is predominately unsaturated, the type of fat that contributes to optimal cell health, the fat which helps to regulate a number of hormones as well as improving good cholesterol levels. When it comes to which type, walnuts stand out as clear winner. Walnuts are known as a “super food” as they contain exceptionally high amounts of the long chain polyunsaturated fats. For this reason, individuals with high cholesterol can reap many benefits of adding 10 walnuts a day to their daily diet prescription.
When the diets of cultures who have the lowest rates of heart disease are examined it becomes apparent that fresh fruits and in particular vegetables have a huge role to play. Specifically studies investigating the dietary patterns of those from the Mediterranean have identified including a massive 7-10 serves of brightly coloured vegetables in the diet every single day is a key component of this diet linked to specific health benefits. Not only do vegetables add a hearty dose of antioxidants and fibre to the diet, they are exceptionally low in calories which means they play a key role in weight control. Even better serves them with olive oil to help promote nutrient absorption.
Often forgotten for the specific roles water can play in our health, research published in the Journal of Epidemiology has shown a specific link between a high daily intake of water and a reduced risk of heart attack. In fact makes who consumed more than 5 glasses of water each day had almost a 50% lower risk of having a heart attack while women who drank 2 glasses of anything other than water had almost 3x as high a risk of having a heart attack. A diet that includes plenty of water is linked to better dietary practices, an increased feeling of fullness and lower blood pressure. Even more reason to load up on the clear stuff.
Hydration plays a major role on how you perform through the day, both at home and at work. Read more here.
And the one we do not need to worry about
Eggs do not increase blood cholesterol levels. Old science told us that the cholesterol we consume in foods (animal foods contain cholesterol) increased blood cholesterol and we now know that is not the case. Rather genetics, the total calorie and fat balance in the diet will determine if food patterns increase blood cholesterol levels. So how many eggs should we consume each week? Given that eggs are an extremely nutrient rich food (with at least 11 key nutrients) adding a couple to your daily food repertoire poses no issue and may even support weight control thanks to their high protein content thought to help control insulin levels and appetite.
Read more about why drinking more water can be the easiest way to lose weight, here.
Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Zip. Read more about her partnership with Zip here.