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9 foods for heart health

Our Nutritionist, James, has rounded up all the best foods for heart health, so you can include them in your diet, quickly and easily. 

According to the British Heart Foundation (1), cardiovascular disease – the umbrella term for all diseases of the heart and circulation – is the leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for around 68,000 deaths in the UK each year.

That means we lose a person to heart disease around every eight minutes.

While health education campaigns mean that figure is now much lower than it was in the 1960s, there’s still a lot to do to reduce figures even further and the role of diet cannot be overstated when it comes to our heart health. In fact, the scientific evidence for foods good for heart health is compelling, as foods can influence key risk factors associated with heart health, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammatory markers (2).

As such, our diets have the power to either defend against or contribute to the development of heart disease. Nutrient-rich foods support our heart’s function and resilience, helping to keep those vital arteries clear and our blood flowing smoothly. On the flip side, diets high in processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars can do the opposite, increasing our risk of heart-related complications.

Here then is our list of the best foods for better heart health.

Best Foods for your heart health

Ginger

With a long history in herbal medicine, ginger’s benefits for heart health are backed by research indicating it can lower blood pressure and combat inflammation  — a common culprit in heart diseases (3). Compounds in ginger, such as gingerols, have been studied for their cholesterol-lowering effects and their ability to improve circulation, making this spice a valuable addition to a heart-conscious diet.

Find out more about the health benefits of ginger right here! It’s one of the reasons we use it so often in our health-boosting recipes. 

Nuts

Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, providing a good source of plant protein, heart-healthy fats, and fibre. Regular consumption of nuts has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. They can lower LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ one), reduce inflammation, and are linked to a reduced risk of developing blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks (4–6).

Berries

Berries are rich in essential nutrients and antioxidants, which can protect the heart. The high levels of anthocyanins in berries have been linked with a host of health benefits, including lower blood pressure and reduced markers of inflammation. Regular intake of berries can contribute to heart health maintenance and they an easy, tasty addition to any eating plan (7,8).

Seafood

Seafood – particularly salmon, other oily fish and shellfish – is an excellent source of lean protein and is high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, which are known for their roles in heart health. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation throughout the body, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and decrease stroke and heart failure risk (9,10).

Whole grains

Consuming whole grains as part of a healthy diet can improve heart health. The beta glucans found in oats, for instance, are particularly effective at lowering cholesterol. These soluble fibres help to slow the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, reducing the risk of coronary artery disease (11,12).

Olive oil

Olive oil, particularly extra-virgin, is full of monounsaturated fats that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Its polyphenols can also protect blood vessels. The high monounsaturated fat content in olive oil is beneficial for heart health, which is why its consumption is encouraged in moderation (13).

Meat and other proteins

While high intake of red meat has been associated with higher heart disease risk, lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and plant-based proteins can be part of a heart-healthy diet. These proteins provide essential amino acids without the high levels of saturated fat found in fattier cuts of meat (14,15)

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and kale are nutrient-dense foods. They are high in fibre, vitamins, and phytochemicals that have been shown to reduce inflammation, which can help prevent arterial damage. Their high antioxidant content also helps in maintaining a healthy heart (16).

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes are excellent sources of soluble fiber, which can bind cholesterol and prevent its absorption in the bloodstream. They also provide protein and several key nutrients while being low in fat. Incorporating beans into a regular diet can help maintain a healthy heart by managing blood pressure and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (16).

References

 

  1. BHF. BHF UK CVD Factsheet. Br Hear Found [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 23]; Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/-/media/files/for-professionals/research/heart-statistics/bhf-cvd-statistics-uk-factsheet.pdf
  2. Itchhaporia D. Innovation: Food, Nutrition, and the Promise of Heart Health. Vol. 78, Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Elsevier; 2021. p. 994–7.
  3. Fakhri S, Patra JK, Das SK, Das G, Majnooni MB, Farzaei MH. Ginger and Heart Health: From Mechanisms to Therapeutics. Curr Mol Pharmacol. 2020 Dec 10;14(6):943–59.
  4. Fraser GE. A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 1992 Jul 1;152(7):1416–24.
  5. Nash SD, Nash DT. Nuts as part of a healthy cardiovascular diet. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2008;10(6):529–35.
  6. Sabate J, Fraser GE, Burke K, Knutsen SF, Bennett H, Lindsted KD. Effects of Walnuts on Serum Lipid Levels and Blood Pressure in Normal Men. N Engl J Med. 1993 Mar 4;328(9):603–7.
  7. Ros E, Tapsell LC, Sabaté J. Nuts and berries for heart health [Internet]. Vol. 12, Current Atherosclerosis Reports. Springer; 2010 [cited 2024 Feb 23]. p. 397–406. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11883-010-0132-5
  8. Basu A, Rhone M, Lyons TJ. Berries: Emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Nutr Rev. 2010 Mar;68(3):168–77.
  9. Liu C, Ralston NVC. Seafood and health: What you need to know? In: Advances in Food and Nutrition Research [Internet]. Adv Food Nutr Res; 2021 [cited 2024 Feb 23]. p. 275–318. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34311902/
  10. Natto ZS, Yaghmoor W, Alshaeri HK, Van Dyke TE. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Effects on Inflammatory Biomarkers and Lipid Profiles among Diabetic and Cardiovascular Disease Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2019 Dec 11 [cited 2024 Feb 23];9(1):1–10. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-54535-x
  11. Liska DAJ, Dioum EH, Chu Y, Mah E. Narrative Review on the Effects of Oat and Sprouted Oat Components on Blood Pressure. Nutrients. 2022 Nov 1;14(22).
  12. Mathews R, Kamil A, Chu YF. Global review of heart health claims for oat beta-glucan products. Nutr Rev [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Feb 23];78(Suppl 1):78–97. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32728751/
  13. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH. SCIENCE OF MEDICINE Monounsaturated Fat vs Saturated Fat: and Obesity. Mo Med. 2022;119(1):69–73.
  14. Li D, Siriamornpun S, Wahlqvist ML, Mann NJ, Sinclair AJ. Lean meat and heart health. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(2):113–9.
  15. Clayton ZS, Fusco E, Kern M. Egg consumption and heart health: A review. Nutrition. 2017 May 1;37:79–85.
  16. Finkelstein L. World Renowned Nutritionist Dr. Lisa young Can Be Your Health Coach | Save One Person [Internet]. https://saveoneperson.org/. [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from: https://saveoneperson.org/world-renowned-nurtitionist-dr-lisa-young-can-be-your-health-coach?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAoeGuBhCBARIsAGfKY7zuhje9qeK59jD0ontGYXa-ubv3nVKBXqhx8XNzxWmCZNtN4SXoHKUaApdTEALw_wcB
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