Whether it’s a spouse, a secret admirer, or a loved member of family, this time of year it’s common to have winning hearts in mind. However, why not leave the chocolates in the petrol station this year, and focus on gaining the love of your own heart. Heart disease is one of the U.K’s biggest health problems, affecting around 2.3 million people at any time, with women and men over 50 being most at risk. However, with a few simple diet tweaks, you can make sure your heart is healthy and working properly. To keep your heart in good shape for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day, take a look at our ten foods that are good for your heart.
A native of the Middle East, the pomegranate is one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. Though its seeds may be small, they pack a nutrient heavy punch. Punicalagin – a rare compound only found in 3 plants aside from pomegranate- has been shown to have antioxidant benefits, and can contribute to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Eating one to two portions of fish a week could greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, and you could do worse than choosing salmon as that fish. Salmon is classed as a fatty fish, and is full of the Omega-3 oils needed in fish to contribute to heart health. Omega-3 contains anti-inflammatory properties, giving it the ability to lower blood pressure, reduce the chance of blood clotting, and decrease the risk of heart failure.
Around 77% of the calories that come from avocado are due to fat, making it one of the fattiest plant foods out there. So why is it on this list? Well, not all fats are bad, and most of the fat in avocado is made up of oleic acid – a monounsaturated fat. Like Omega-3, oleic acid can work to reduce bodily inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels. So if you’re looking for a high calorie food that’s actually healthy for you, the avocado is your friend.
Whole grains are well known for their heart benefits, and oats are no different. High in beta-glucan, a fibre known to reduce bad cholesterol, studies have found that consuming one bowl of oats a day can reduce heart disease by up to 23%. So while the cold winter weather is still hanging around, get eating that porridge.
Whether its soy milk, tofu or the beans themselves, foods containing soy that have been fermented are good for your heart. Soy reduces levels of leptin in the blood, a compound linked to blood vessel dysfunctions. Soy also not only reduces cholesterol, but could potentially work towards increasing levels of good cholesterol necessary for maintaining cardiovascular health. For dairy intolerance sufferers struggling to give up milk, switching to soya milk is one option along with a variety of nut milks.
Ask anyone why oranges are healthy and it’s likely they’ll mention vitamin C. However, it’s far less likely that they’ll know why a good supply of vitamin C is healthy. It’s been relatively recently discovered that vitamin C can contribute to lowering blood pressure and the strengthening of blood vessel walls, two factors that are important to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
Almonds are another high fat food that can be eaten without guilt. Like oily fish and avocado, almonds contain monounsaturated fats, and frequently show up in studies of foods that can reduce heart disease and heart attack risk. High in energy and good for your health, as a snack almonds make an ideal mid-day pick me up.
8. Sweet Potato
Whether you call it a sweet potato or a yam, substituting this fleshy orange plant in place of its paler relative is a great move for your heart. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin B6, which works to break down substances known to cause hardening of the arteries. The vegetable gets its vibrant colour from its high levels of beta carotene, which has anti-inflammatory properties known to reduce cholesterol.
This little dried fruit and snacking favourite contains high levels of antioxidants that can restrict bacteria known to cause gum disease. This might seem unconnected to heart health, but studies have shown that those who suffer from gum disease are by far more likely to also suffer from cardiovascular problems. As such, eating raisins isn’t just beneficial for gum health, but also to your overall wellbeing.
10. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is full of properties known to benefit the heart, meaning those petrol station chocolates might not be such a bad idea after all. The antioxidant properties of the chocolate can help to reduce free radicals, substances formed by naturally occurring bodily processes that can cause cell damage. In taming these free radicals, dark chocolate lowers the risk of plaque forming on the artery walls, ensuring a healthy cardiovascular system.
While gifting a sack of oats or some fresh salmon this Valentines’ Day might not be the best idea, keeping these foods in mind could help you keep your heart happy, healthy, and safe for your loved ones.
A raised level of homocysteine has been shown to contribute to heart disease. With YorkTest’s Homocysteine Test, you could find out if you’re at risk, and work towards making simple dietary changes to improve your health.