Eating well is important for your overall health. A balanced diet ensures your body gets the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly however, certain foods and drinks are particularly good for your heart and the cardiovascular system.
We’ve already discussed the foods that can boost your brain power, and looked into the best foods for maintaining a healthy digestive system, but here is what you could eat to help keep your heart healthy too.
Heart healthy diets
Heart healthy diets are typically lower in saturated fats as they can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood. They also limit salt and include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
The Eat well Guide is an excellent place to start if you are looking at getting a more balanced diet, but the following foods are particularly good if you would like to focus on keeping your heart healthier, too.
Heart healthy foods
Adding strawberries, blueberries or raspberries to your diet could help to control your blood pressure and blood clotting because berries are rich in antioxidants.
· Whole grains
Whole grains are higher in fibre than refined grains and include brown rice, barley, oats and rye. Studies have found that including them in your diet can decrease systolic blood pressure and in turn reduce the risk of stroke.
Omega3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines have been found to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
· Leafy vegetables
Kale, spinach and collard greens are all leafy veg. They contain a vitamin K which promotes healthy blood clotting and protects the arteries. They can also help cells to function better and reduce blood pressure due the fact that they are high in dietary nitrates.
Garlic contains allicin which is produced as the cloves are chopped or crushed. It has been linked to reducing inflammation and can fight a wide range of bacteria.
· Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate that contains a cocoa level of 70% or more contains antioxidants like flavonoids which can help to keep the heart healthy. Be aware that that sugars and saturated fats in the bar you select could outweigh the potential benefits.
· Beans and legumes
Beans are high in resistant starch, meaning it isn’t broken down when you digest it. This can reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood). Beans have also been linked to lower blood pressure and can decrease inflammation.
Heart healthy drinks
As well as certain foods, some drinks have been linked to a healthier heart. Avoiding sugary drinks can also help to keep your heart and cardiovascular system in good condition.
· Green tea
Green tea contains polyphenols and catechins — antioxidants that prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation. Green tea has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
· Tomato juice
Tomatoes contain a natural plant pigment called lycopene with has a lot of antioxidant properties. Low levels of lycopene in the blood have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Eating tomatoes or drinking juice made from them can increase levels of HDL cholesterol, also known as good cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol can help remove excess cholesterol and plaque from the arteries keeping your heart healthy.
Water helps our body to carry out necessary chemical reactions, moves nutrients around the body through our blood and keeps our vital organs functioning as they should. Water should be drunk every day and the recommended daily amount is 6-8 glasses, but more if you are exercising heavily.
Alcohol and the heart
Alcohol is a drug. It acts as a depressant, slowing down your brain’s ability to control your body. When it comes to alcohol’s effect on the heart, it raises blood pressure which over time can develop into hypertension (high blood pressure), putting excess strain on the heart muscle. Your risk of having a stroke or heart attack increases and you could develop cardiovascular disease. Excessive drinking can also cause cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle is permanently damaged and cannot work efficiently.
You can learn more about your heart and alcohol at the British Heart Foundation’s website Supplements to support heart health
Although some supplements can be prescribed by your doctor to help you get all the minerals and vitamins that you need, a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to provide your body with these things.
You can, of course, switch some of the foods you don’t like for others that give the same benefits (kale for spinach, eggs instead of avocado) or find a suitable supplement that will help you get the nutrients it provides into your diet. For example, if you don’t like to eat a lot of fish or seafood, other omega-3 supplements like krill oil or algal oil are popular alternatives.
At CS Healthcare, we are committed to protecting the health of our members and we also offer a wide range of health benefits and discount schemes with our member rewards. View our range of products and get a quote today.
The information in this article is intended as general advice only. If you or your family members require medical advice or have any medical concerns, please contact your GP.
Please note that not all conditions discussed above are covered by a CSH plan.
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