5 Simple dietary changes to boost your heart health

As my parents are getting older, I think it’s only natural for me to begin to worry a bit more about their health.

I’m fortunate that both my parents are in very good shape and they’ve always taken great care of their health. When it comes to their health, they live by the motto “Investing in your health, is the wisest investment you’ll ever make.”

I couldn’t agree more.

But still, the worry is there. I know that as they grow older their risk of heart disease increase. After all, as much as your heart is a powerful muscle, it is also the muscle in your body that works non-stop from the day that you are born.

Luckily, you can help support your heart health by making a few simple dietary changes and, in some cases, doing this can even reverse the narrowing of arteries — one of the main causes of heart disease and stroke is atherosclerosis or the blocking of arteries.

Now most people don’t like the idea of a diet and I think that’s because most diets focus on what you CAN’T or shouldn’t eat. More often than not, this includes almost all your favourite foods! That’s why adding heart-saving foods to your diet instead of just cutting back on food that is less good for you, is a much better strategy for incorporating these healthy changes into your life.

Here are 5 delicious nutritional tips that will make it easier for you to improve your heart health:

1. Fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are key: Sulphoraphane found in vegetables like broccoli, has been proven to have heart-protecting benefits. Eating more fruit and grains will also increase your dietary fibre, which will help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

2. Be wise when it comes to fat calories: Limit your total fat intake. For example, fats found in margarine, salad dressing, sweets and desserts are all bad for your arteries. Avoid partially hydrogenated oils as much as possible. These are usually found in processed or manufactured foods, like margarine, and will sometimes appear on labels as ‘vegetable oils’. Eat more monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive and peanut oil. Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that promote heart health.

3. Eat a variety of protein foods: Eat a variety of protein foods from animal, fish and vegetable sources. Eating more fish, like omega-3-rich salmon will not only help protect your heart but will also boost your energy levels, help fight certain types of cancer, improve your sleep, help relieve arthritis pain, reduce high blood pressure and improve cognitive function.

4. Carbohydrates should be complex, not simple: Whole wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, root vegetables, oat, barley and whole-grain breads are all complex carbohydrates, which are rich in fibre and contain nutrients like phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates (including white bread and pasta, and biscuits), that can all increase your LDL cholesterol levels and raise your risk of heart disease.

5. Don’t skip meals: Skipping meals often leads to overeating. For some, eating five to six mini-meals may help keep cravings in check, help control blood sugars and regulate metabolism. This approach may not be as effective for those who are tempted to overeat every time they sit in front of a plate full of food, and for these individuals, three balanced meals a day may be a better approach.

Making these dietary and lifestyle changes is even more important if you’ve already had a heart attack or a medical procedure (such as angioplasty, bypass surgery or carotid surgery) to restore blood flow to your heart or other areas of your body.

In these cases, acting preventative can also protect against restenosis, or the re-narrowing of your arteries.

To a healthier life,

Thomas Smith