Home Health & Wellness Eat Your Way to a Healthy Heart in 6 Easy Steps

Eat Your Way to a Healthy Heart in 6 Easy Steps

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Taking care of our heart health should be a top priority, and one of the best ways to do this is by watching what we eat. A healthy diet can help us maintain healthy cholesterol levels, stable blood glucose and normal blood pressure, all of which are critical for a healthy heart.

Your heart-friendly diet

Taking care of our heart health should be a top priority, and one of the best ways to do this is by watching what we eat. A healthy diet can help us maintain healthy cholesterol levels, stable blood glucose and normal blood pressure, all of which are critical for a healthy heart.

The key to preventing heart disease is to consume all the healthy heart-friendly ingredients your cardiovascular system relies on to stay healthy and to avoid those that cause it problems.

Sounds obvious right? But when you really emphasise nutrient-dense foods every day, the damaging ones get crowded out, enabling you to really support a healthy heart

This is one of my key nutrition principles also – it’s not what you take out of your diet but more about the beneficial foods you add into your diet.

Here are some basic heart-friendly principles:

  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods as the mainstay of your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and seeds.
  • Limit your intake of processed foods that are high in salt, added sugars, saturated fats and/or trans fats (usually listed as hydrogenated fats)
  • Incorporate heart-healthy fats into your diet such as omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and flaxseeds (see healthy fats below)
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavour to your meals – they bring a wealth of additional nutritional benefits to your plate.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks and sports drinks – opt instead for water, and herbal tea.
  • Make sustainable changes to your diet that can be maintained long-term, rather than quick-fix fad diets. This is a far more effective strategy to protect your heart health.

The importance of hearty healthy fats

Omega-3 essential fats are heart-healthy fats. Omega 3 essential fats are known as essential fats because we must get these from dietary sources. We cannot synthesise these ourselves.

Omega 3 essential fats can lower cholesterol levels, lower harmful triglycerides in the bloodstream and lower inflammation which is often associated with heart disease.

Oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 essential fats (salmon, mackerel, kippers, sardines, herrings) However, omega-3 essential fats are also available from plant-based sources i.e., milled flaxseed & chia seeds.

Milled flaxseed is particularly helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol and is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels (known as the bad cholesterol).

Studies have found that adding milled flaxseed to our diet can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by up to 20%. Milled flaxseed is easy to incorporate into our diet and can be added in a variety of ways from smoothies to porridge, yoghurt, and in baked goods. A 2002 study demonstrates the effectiveness of flaxseed in improving blood lipid profiles in postmenopausal women.

The importance of the right diet

The most effective nutritional approach to reduce cholesterol is to include plenty of fibre, complex carbs (wholewheat variety), essential fats – omega 3s, and key vitamins and minerals.

I recommend the liberal use of garlic, ginger, and turmeric – which are some of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatory foods. In addition, try reducing and minimising meat and cheese consumption, in favour of more plant-based options as often as possible, which contain low/no saturated fat by comparison (among other benefits).

High fibre

A diet high in fibre and low in added sugars can help maintain balanced blood sugars.

Flaxseed is a great addition to a diet that aims to maintain balanced blood sugars. The soluble fibre in flaxseed helps slow down the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream, which can help prevent blood sugar spikes. Additionally, flaxseed also has a low glycaemic index (GI), which means it doesn’t cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Both factors over time contribute towards a healthy heart a vascular system, which reduces every known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Flaxseed can also be beneficial for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. A 2014 study found that consuming flaxseed daily for six months led to a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels. The researchers believe that this may be due to the high levels of alpha-linolenic acid and lignans found in flaxseed, both of which have been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure which is essential for a healthy heart

Variety is the spice

Lastly, versatility is an essential factor to consider when choosing foods for a healthy heart. It is essential to have a varied diet that includes different types of fibre and nutrients to ensure we are getting all the nutrients and co-factor nutrients our body needs, to function optimally. This strategy is also very supportive of our gut microbiome, which can play an important role in our overall health & well-being.

Takeaway

Linwoods milled flaxseed is incredibly versatile and can be added to a wide variety of dishes, making it an easy way to add heart-healthy nutrients to our diet:

  • We can add milled flaxseed to our smoothies or yoghurt in the morning for a quick and easy breakfast.
  • We can also add it to our porridge or even pancakes for a healthy and delicious snack.
  • We can use milled flaxseed as a replacement for some of the flour in our baking recipes to further enhance nutrient density.

Rachel Graham is a nutritional therapist and medicinal chef.

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