Many of us are focused on gut health, skin health and mental health but take heart health for granted, especially if we are young and fit. However, everyone can benefit from putting into place, daily practices to promote heart health. This is especially considering that our fast paced (and stress filled) lifestyles can impact heart health without us being aware. Here are 5 things I do daily as a Nutritionist to promote heart health.
Enjoy a daily dose of healthy fats
Hemp seeds, flaxseeds and oily fish (salmon, sardines and mackerel) are sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega- fats are called ‘essential’ because they cannot be made by the body and must be consumed in the diet. Omega 3 fats are particularly good for heart health as they are linked to a reduced cardiovascular disease risk due to their ability to reduce triglycerides, improve blood vessel elasticity and reduce the potential for blood clots and inflammation. Aim for at least 2 serves of fatty fish per week and 30g hemp or flaxseeds most days.
Raw nuts are a great source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that eating 20g of nuts daily can cut peoples risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30%. Walnuts have one of the highest antioxidant content of all nuts and are a particularly good choice when it comes to heart health!
Flavour with herbs and spice
Herbs and spices such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon and paprika are all rich sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds! Both of which are incredibly beneficial for heart health. Specifically, it is most beneficial to include spices in high fat meals, for example curries using fatty cuts of meat and coconut milk or roasts – as antioxidant rich spices and herbs have been shown to reduce fats in the blood by 30% compared to eating the same meal without herbs/spices. This means, herbs and spices are a fantastic way to flavour food whilst also benefiting health.
Eat at least 25-30g fibre daily
We are always told to eat more fibre, but what exactly is fibre? Fibre is a type of carbohydrate, which our body cannot break down and it passes through the body undigested. Fibre is a great tool to help support heart health because fibre can help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and help us to maintain a healthy weight. Soluble fibre is particularly good for lowering cholesterol because it binds to cholesterol and helps with the removal of cholesterol from the body. Examples of soluble fibre are chia seeds, linseeds, oat bran, green peas and psyllium.
I am sure this one doesn’t come as a surprise but must be said! Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, is important to maintain a healthy heart. Even on a busy day, I aim to prioritise some form of movement whether it is a gym session, walking around the neighbourhood or pilates. Incidental activity also counts when it comes to heart health because sitting for long periods is associated with a greater risk for heart disease. Aim to get up from your desk every 30min even if it’s just to get a cup of water or take a walk during your lunch break.
Meditation is a powerful practice to help reduce stress. I like to start my day with a short meditation to clear my mind and prepare me mentally for the day ahead. Mental health aside, it has been suggested that meditation can play a role in reducing risk of heart disease by improving heart function and changing our outlook on life which in turn motivates us to make healthier choices.