Eat your way to a healthy heart

September 28th, 2018 - By gshorter
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As it’s National World Heart Day, we’ve asked our nutritionist Gemma to recommend her top foods for a healthy heart as well as the foods we should be limiting.

Foods we should be eating more of include:

1. Oily fish

Oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Aim to eat at least two portions of fish each week, with at least one of which should be an oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or sardines.

There is not enough evidence to support the use of omega-3 supplements.

2. Wholegrains

Wholegrains are a good source of fibre, which helps to support digestion and lower the risk of heart disease. Foods such as oats and barley contain a type of fibre called beta glucan, which may help to reduce cholesterol levels.

Aim to eat a mixture of different wholegrain and high-fibre foods including wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain breakfast cereals, potatoes with their skin on, oats, pulses (beans and lentils), fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

3. Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are good source of fibre and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. A portion of beans or lentils counts towards 1 of your 5 a day.

4. Foods with added plant sterols and stanols

If you have high cholesterol including these foods in your diet can help lower your cholesterol levels and potentially reduce your risk of heart disease.

You can buy a variety of products that contains these added plant sterols and stanols including spreads, yogurts and yogurt drinks. Aim to eat these foods regularly, around 2g of stanols or sterols per day. These foods are not intended to replace a healthy diet or be used in replacement of cholesterol lowering medication.

Foods we need to limit include:

1. Saturated fat

Too much saturated fat in the diet can increase cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. The current guidelines recommend to reduce our intake of saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fats.

Here are a few tips on how to reduce your intake of saturated fat:

• Choose lean cuts of meat such as lean bean mince and remove skin from poultry
• Grill, steam, poach, boil or microwave rather than frying to reduce your use of oil
• Replace meat in dishes with pulses like beans, lentils and peas, and soya
• Cut back on fats and oil high in saturated fat such as butter, lard, ghee and coconut oil, and replace with oils high in unsaturated fats like rapeseed, olive and sunflower spreads
• Reduce your intake of foods containing pastry such as pies and sausage rolls
• Compare food labels to choose options that are lower in saturated fat
• Reduce your intake of snacks high in saturated fat such as fried crisps, chocolate and pastries, and opt for a handful of nuts, seeds, or pitta and houmous.

2. Salt

Salt is the main source of sodium in the diet and has been linked to high blood pressure. Most of the salt we consume is from salt added during processing and is hidden in processed foods.

Make sure to check nutrition labels and choose foods lower in salt. Instead of adding salt to foods, use pepper, herbs and spices to flavour food. Adults should aim for no more than 6g of salt per day.