February is often referred to as the ‘month of love’, for obvious reasons. However, putting romance aside, we should be loving our hearts all year round.
Our hearts beat around 100,000 times in a day, working incredibly hard for us. And there are some great heart-loving foods which support its ongoing health.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares five top foods that support your heart health.
Salmon is an oily fish, rich in heart-loving, essential omega-3 fats. The word ‘fat’ often sends alarm bells when people are talking about the heart. However, the omega-3s are polyunsaturated, with a very different chemical structure to saturated fats, and are absolutely needed for heart health. The body can’t make omega-3s, hence they need to be eaten regularly in the diet. The recommended intake of oily fish is two to three portions per week.
Can’t face fish? Then it’s important to supplement with fish oils, or to eat flaxseeds which are also rich in omega-3s.
Oats are loaded with a type of fibre called beta-glucans. Much research over the years has found that beta-glucans help reduce cholesterol levels. So much so, that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has authorised this claim that can be used on beta-glucan containing foods, especially oats.
Fibre is important for the heart for many reasons. As an example, high cholesterol and fats must be excreted from the body in the stool, so having the bowels working well is also great for the heart. With February still being rather chilly, there’s no excuse not to enjoy a delicious bowl of warming porridge. And you can even sprinkle some flaxseeds on the top to really give your heart some love.
Quite simply, lentils are rich in potassium, fibre, and folate, all providing support for a healthy heart. Fibre is important for keeping bowels moving and ensuring blood fats are under control. Importantly lentils are rich in gentle soluble fibre, so they won’t irritate the digestive tract.
Folate is important for a process known as ‘methylation’ which the body carries out hundreds of times every day; poor methylation is associated with higher risks of heart disease. And potassium is really important for encouraging a healthy heart rhythm and keeping blood pressure in check.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating homemade dhal, then you’ve missed a treat! It’s so easy to make and provides an incredible number of heart-loving nutrients too.
Blueberries are often referred to as a superfood, and for very good reason. Their rich, dark colour means they’re packed with anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants which help protect the heart. Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C, another antioxidant which is very heart friendly.
The body is constantly bombarded with environmental free-radicals and from the food we eat. Hence, nature has provided antioxidants to help protect the body from whatever life throws its way. Vitamin C can also help reduce cholesterol levels.
Soya beans are also known to reduce cholesterol levels and raise HDL’s (the ‘good ‘cholesterol). However, not all soya products are created equal, and the greatest benefits come from fermented sources. In this respect, tofu and tempeh are your friends. Whilst soya milk and yoghurts, for example, are fine, fermented products have a very beneficial effect on the gut microbiome, which in turn is great for heart health.
It’s important to ensure that any soya products are from non-GMO sources although this isn’t an issue when choosing fermented produce. Tofu and tempeh are also very low in fat, another plus when thinking about the heart.
So, enjoy the month of love and start introducing more heart-loving foods into your diet.
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