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Today is world heart day, a day dedicated to creating awareness around cardiovascular disease (CVD).

This awareness is crucial considering CVD, including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death.

However, there are known risk factors, which we can all aim to avoid, and protective lifestyle choices we can all make, to reduce our risk of CVD.

It is well known our diet plays a role in our risk of developing CVD. However, thankfully it is a risk factor within our control because we can choose to eat better.

When it comes to healthy eating, we don’t always have to focus on what not to eat. Instead, we can pay attention to making better choices and crowding out our diet with healthy foods.

Here I am sharing some simple diet swaps you can make today to better support heart health:

Swap red meat for >> fish and legumes
Red meat mostly contains saturated fats, which should be limited in the diet. However, fish contains polyunsaturated fats, which are considered heart healthy and legumes are very low in fat but do contain a little bit of polyunsaturated fats too.

Swap white pasta for >> legume or wholemeal pasta
Wholegrains such as legume based pasta and wholemeal pasta are both great sources of fibre and increased fibre intake has been linked to a decrease CVD risk. Swapping white pasta for these types of wholegrains is a really simple way to make sure you are eating enough fibre without too much effort. 

I recommend trying chickpea, black bean or edamame spaghetti, if you haven’t already!

Swap butter and margarine for >> avocado
This one is a no brainer but it’s also very easy to forget! Avocado is a great source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats not to mention also heart protective antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. If you aren’t an avocado fan, you could try hummus as another healthy spread alternative. 

Swap lettuce for >> kale, rocket and spinach
Lettuce is still a healthy veggie to include in your diet, but mixing it up with darker leafy veggies such as kale, rocket and spinach can benefit heart health because these types of greens have more fibre and also contain vitamin K, which aids heart function. 

Swap black tea >> for green tea
Green tea is a potent sauce of polyphenols and catechins, which are associated with lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. If you aren’t a fan of straight green tea, try matcha made on oat or almond milk, yum!

Swap salted peanuts for >> raw walnuts
While peanuts contain healthy fats, walnuts are the best choice when it comes to heart health. This is because the fibre, antioxidants and micronutrients found in walnuts have been linked to lower risk of heart disease.

Swap dried fruit for >> blueberries
While dried fruit does offer some fibre, vitamins and antioxidants, blueberries are an even more beneficial heart healthy sweet snack to enjoy. Research has shown, when people at risk of developing CVD consumed 1 cup of blueberries daily their risk decreased by 15%. Adding 1 cup of blueberries to smoothies is a very easy way to gain this benefit.

Swap Alcohol for >> mocktails and non-alcoholic versions of your favourite drink
If you choose to consume alcohol, it’s important to not drink in excess of the recommended guidelines of:

  • No more than 10 standards drinks per week
  • No more than 4 standard drinks on any one day

When selecting a drink to consume, make sure you are mindful of the sugar content of the drink for example cocktails, cider and premixed drinks.

Avoid soft drink as a mixer and try a naturally flavoured sparkling water instead.