Working in pharmacy, I spent several years watching people take medications instead of taking charge of their health by making appropriate food choices. Time and again I would see them coming in to get medications for conditions they could have easily prevented simply by making better nutritional choices. Our society needs to start teaching nutrition to our kids at an early age so they understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle. I believe people eat the way they do because media saturates us with bad choices! Who hasn’t sat down to watch a show without seeing at least one fast food commercial? Honestly eating right at home can be just as fast and way more satisfying! Everyone seems to have forgotten in this day and age of instant gratification that health begins with what we eat every day. As a society and especially as parents we need to start paying more attention to nutrition. Nutrition begins at home and our families will follow our lead!
Here are some foods that we all need to incorporate into our nutrition plans so we can live a healthy, happy and full life! Some of the foods that will be discussed are flavour rich such as fresh herbs, along with nuts, berries even red wine (in moderation of course). These foods form a universal approach to heart-healthy eating. Review the following information to discover more appetizing ways to fight heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These foods, coupled with regular exercise programs and people becoming willing to take charge of their lives, will hopefully one day eradicate the need for unnecessary and high risk medications that have undesirable side effects. We all need to get up off the couch and start eating right!
Fresh Herbs make healthy foods heart-smart because they reduce the overuse of salt. Salt (sodium) is essential to our bodies but in large quantities attracts water. When there is too much salt in the blood, the salt draws more water into the blood. More water increases the volume of blood which raises blood pressure. Rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme also contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to the cells, and play a role in heart disease.
Cayenne pepper contains the active ingredient capsaicin, which is the reason for its fiery heat and health benefits. Cayenne pepper is a source of vitamin A, increases blood flow and boosts heart health by improving controllable risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Researchers found that long-term use of capsaicin lowers blood pressure. Scientists found that capsaicin activates a channel in blood vessels that increases production of nitric oxide, a molecule that protects blood vessels from inflammation which creates damage. They also observed that people consuming capsaicin and curcumin experienced considerable improvement in cholesterol levels. Scientists stated that the two compounds contain high levels of antioxidants that boost lipid metabolism. Tip: Chili powder is a blend of five spices, while dried chili pepper comes from a single hot pepper. Both are good flavour additives in recipes.
Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. Tip: Don’t exceed one glass a day for women or one to two glasses for men. Be aware that alcohol can cause problems for people taking aspirin and other medications speak with your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions. It has been well documented that alcohol hurts the heart as well as other internal organs if consumed in large quantities!
Salmon is one of the super foods! It is a top food for heart health because it’s rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s lower the risk of arrhythmias which may cause your heart to beat too slowly (bradycardia, less than 60 beats per minute) or too quickly (tachycardia, more than 100 beats per minute), or cause uncoordinated contractions (fibrillation). which can lead to sudden cardiac death. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides .The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week. Tuna is also a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s; it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) contains more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. In the event you don’t like canned fish , Tuna steaks are a delicious alternative but more costly than the other variety. Other fish that are sources of omega-3s include: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies.
Tip: Grill tuna steak with dill and lemon; choose tuna packed in water, not oil. Bake or BBQ Salmon with fresh herbs. Make extra and save to put in salads for lunch the next day.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is particularly rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols protect cells and body chemicals against damage caused by free radicals. It is a monounsaturated fat and studies have shown that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. A 2010 study in the “Journal of Women’s Health” found that 80 percent of a group of breast cancer survivors who daily consumed 3 tbsp. of olive oil lost more than 5 percent of their body weight in eight weeks, while the same result occurred for only 31 percent of participants on a standard low-fat diet Tip: Use for salads, on cooked veggies and in smoothies. Look for cold-pressed and use within six months
Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fibre. Approximately 1.5 ounces a day of Walnuts can lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart. Walnuts are energy dense which also makes them high in calories however when eaten in their natural state without additions of sugar or salt, are very satiating, providing a lasting feeling of fullness. Therefore they are effective at controlling appetite which reduces our desire to snack on unhealthy foods. Tip: Keep in mind a handful has nearly 300 calories. Walnut oil has omega–3s and is wonderful in salad dressings.
Almonds are chock full of vitamin E, plant sterols, fibre, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes. Vitamin E may help stop the development of plaques in your arteries. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack. Plant sterols can help lower your cholesterol. While fibre has been shown to lower cholesterol, it also makes you feel full, so you eat less. Tip: Toast to enhance almonds’ creamy, mild flavour. Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, even desserts, and a handful provides added dimensions to your heart health to your meals.
Black beans are packed with healthy nutrients these include folate (folic acid) , antioxidants, and fibre which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They also contain magnesium which has been proven to offer small but clinically significant reductions in blood pressure. Tip: Canned black beans are quick additions to soups and salads ensure you rinse them well to remove extra sodium
Eating edamame boost your heart health! They’re packed with soy protein, which can lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels due to the isoflavones they contain. The American Heart Association has announced that eating 25 g of soy protein each day helps you lower the risk of heart disease. People in Asia generally have a higher intake of soy foods than Americans and typically experience less heart disease. Consuming about half a cup of edamame provides you with about 9 grams of fibre which equal around four slices of whole-wheat bread. Being a soy food Tofu will have the same health benefits as Edamame. The American Heart Association says consuming 25 to 50 grams of soy a day can help lower our LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) by as much as 8%. Research results are also showing soy to be beneficial in preventing stroke. Researchers are still debating whether it’s the phytoestrogens found in soy that promote these health benefits, or that soy protein has reduced fat in comparison to animal proteins. Either way, they say you should be consuming soy several servings a week. You can achieve this by making soy protein at dinnertime more often instead of red meat. You’ll get minerals, fibre, and polyunsaturated fats while avoiding the artery-clogging saturated fat associated with animal proteins. Tip: Chop firm tofu, marinate, then grill, add tofu to soups for protein or use the soft variety in smoothies to increase protein and add texture. Steam frozen edamame and serve warm in the pod sprinkle with a small amount of Kosher salt for added flavour. They also make a fun and delicious snack instead of chips!
Sweet potatoes are a heart healthy substitute for white potatoes for people concerned about by lowering blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association the potassium in sweet potatoes protects your heart by lessening the effect of sodium. However they also warn that potassium affects the balance of fluids in the body. As we age, the kidneys become less able to remove potassium from the blood so before taking any over-the-counter potassium supplement, consult your healthcare professional. The average-sized sweet potato contains approximately 542 mg of potassium. They also contain ample fibre which improves your heart’s health by reducing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Lycopene is also found in them which prevents heart disease by reducing, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) Tip: Enhance their natural sweetness with cinnamon and lime juice, instead of sugary toppings.
Swiss Chard is a dark green, leafy vegetable is rich in potassium and magnesium, minerals that help control blood pressure. It also contains riboflavin which is a very important co-factor in the regeneration of one of the most important antioxidants in the body, glutathione. One of the major effects of glutathione is that it defends certain lipids, like cholesterol, from free radical attack. It is only after the lipid has been attacked by the radicals that it poses a threat to blood vessel walls. A single cup of Swiss chards supplies about 14.7% of the daily fibre needs , regular fibre intake is associated with the reduction in high cholesterol which in turn aids in the prevention of atherosclerosis. Tip: Serve with grilled meats or as a bed for fish. Sauté with olive oil and garlic until wilted, season with herbs and pepper.
Carrots are sweet, crunchy veggies, they are also a top cholesterol-fighting food, thanks to ample amounts of soluble fibre. Carrots contain beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A. Researchers propose that Vitamin A is good heart health as it reduces the risk of heart disease. This is achieved by helping to reduce oxidation. Oxidation occurs when oxygen is exposed to low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol). In heart disease, free radicals are released in artery linings and oxidize low-density lipoproteins (LDL) which contributes to the build up of fatty plaque on artery walls (atherosclerosis) Tip: Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce and muffin batter.
Barley is a nutty, whole grain and can be used in place of rice with dinner or can be added into soups and stews. The fibre in barley can help lower cholesterol levels . Barley contains beta-glucan, a soluble fibre found in many whole grains, came exclusively from barley and not supplements. Your diet should contain foods rich in beta-glucan such as barley flakes, barley flour, and pearled barley instead of rice and wheat. Studies have shown barley-based foods dropped total cholesterol by 4%, 9%, and 10%, respectively and cut LDL cholesterol by 8%, 13.8%, and 17.4%, respectively. Tip: Hulled or “whole grain” barley is the most nutritious. Barley grits are toasted and ground; nice for cereal or as a side dish. Pearl barley is quick, but much of the heart-healthy fibre has been removed.
Oats in all forms can help your heart by lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol. A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours, fights snack attacks, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable over time. Oatmeal contains soluble fibre, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad,” cholesterol. Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. You need 5 to 10 gms of soluble fibre a day to decrease your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fibre, adding a fruit, such as bananas, can increase fibre by 4 more gms. Many people are now eating Steel Cut Oats which are one of the most nutritious carb sources available. They’re also known as coarse-cut oats, pinhead oats, Scotch oats, or Irish oats. Steel cut oats are whole grain oats that are comprised of the inner portion of the oat kernel which are generally cut into two or three pieces. To mix it up a little, try steel-cut oatmeal or cold cereal made with oatmeal or oat bran. Tip: Swap oats for one-third of the flour in pancakes, muffins, and baked goods. Use oats instead of bread crumbs in cooking.
Flaxseed is a shiny, honey-coloured seed that has three elements which are good for your heart: fibre, phytochemicals called lignans, and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The body converts ALA to the more powerful omega-3s, EPA and DHA. Several studies have suggested that diets rich in flaxseed omega-3s help prevent hardening of the arteries and keep plaque from being deposited in the arteries, partly by keeping white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessels’ inner linings. Lignans in flaxseed have been shown to reduce atherosclerotic plaque build-up by up to 75%. Plant omega-3s may also play a role in maintaining the heart’s natural rhythm; therefore they may be useful in treating arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and heart failure, although more research is needed. Eating flaxseed daily may help your cholesterol levels, too. Tip: Grind flaxseed for the best nutrition. Add it to cereal, baked goods, yogurt, even mustard on a sandwich.
Low-Fat Yogurt is most often touted for bone health, dairy can help control high blood pressure, too. Milk is high in calcium and potassium and yogurt has twice as much of these important minerals. A new study found that women who ate at least 100 grams (almost 4 ounces) of yogurt daily had less carotid artery thickening than women who ate less yogurt. Thickening of these arterial walls is a sign of atherosclerosis and has been linked to higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Yogurt eaters were also shown to have healthier blood vessels. Tip: Use milk instead of water in instant oatmeal.
Oranges contains the cholesterol-fighting fibre pectin which is a soluble fibre that soaks up cholesterol in food and blocking its absorption, just like a class of drugs known as bile acid sequestrates which help to reduce LDL. Citrus pectin helps neutralize a protein called galectin-3 that causes scarring of heart tissue, leading to congestive heart failure–a condition that is often difficult to treat with drugs. They also contain potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Christine Morand, PhD, of the Human Nutrition Unit-INRA Clermont- Ferrand performed a study showing that OJ may improve blood vessel function and modestly lower blood pressure through the antioxidant hesperidin. At the end of the OJ test periods, diastolic blood pressure was significantly lower than after the placebo testing. Tip: A medium orange averages 62 calories, with 3 grams of fibre.
Cherries , red fruits and vegetables are rich in anthocyanins, a class of antioxident phytochemical. Anthocyanins antioxidant properties are believed to help protect blood vessels and also have anti-inflammatory properties. Oxidative damage may lead to an increased rate of death and disease particularly in the elderly in response to infections, and diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Anthocyanins specifically, encourage healthy circulation, ensure proper nerve function and offer anti-cancer properties. A research study published in August of 2009 found that consumption of tart cherry juice provided older adults greater protection against the development of heart disease, cancer and age-related cognitive decline. Cherries in any form provide these heart-healthy nutrients; the larger sweet cherries, the sour cherries used for baking, as well as dried cherries and cherry juice. Tip: Sprinkle dried cherries into cereal, muffin batter, green salads and wild rice.
Blueberries list of healthy nutrients is extensive: just as in cherries blueberries possess anthocyanins which give them their deep blue color and support heart health . Blueberries also contain ellagic acid, beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fibre. Blueberry antioxidant defences have been especially well documented in regards to the cardiovascular system. In repeated studies of blood composition, blueberry intake (usually in the amount of 1-2 cups per day and over the course of 1-3 months) has been shown to improve blood fat balances, including reduction in total cholesterol, raising of HDL cholesterol, and lowering of triglycerides. At the same time, blueberry intake has been shown to help protect the blood components (like LDL cholesterol) from oxygen damage that could lead to eventual clogging of the blood vessels. Connected with this antioxidant protection of blood vessel structures and blood fats is an improved overall antioxidant capacity in the blood itself. In both men and women, in studies of many different ages, routine blueberry intake has been shown to support healthy blood pressure. In individuals with high blood pressure, blueberry intake has significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Tip: Add fresh or dried blueberries to cereal, pancakes, or yogurt. Puree a batch for a dessert sauce.
There are many other foods that have similar components. I have provided you with a few options just keep in mind that you need to eat whole foods that are organic. You don’t need to stop eating all of your favourite foods but you do need to start making better choices on a daily basis. With a few simple lifestyle and dietary changes you can prevent or reverse heart disease and eat yourself to a better heart health. This information should ensure that you are feeling satisfied, rather than deprived when starting on to your new way of living and eating. Continue to research so that you have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make simple but life-changing modifications to reverse your disease and live a long, healthy and happy life. Should you not be able to find the time or the funds to hire a ND or nutritionist, an excellent choice is to make yourself a profile on Truestar health. This is a free program provides a whole healthy lifestyle program that encompasses nutrition, supplements, exercise, sleep and attitude. You can find them at www.truestar.com/acclekin . In closing I will leave you with two quotes as food for thought. “Doctors give drugs of which they know little, into bodies, of which they know less, for diseases of which they know nothing at all.” Voltaire. “All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the Challenge of science is to find it.” Philippus Theophrastrus Bombast that of Aureolus Paracelsus (1493-1541).
Cathie Glennon is an Elite Personal Trainer and INFOFIT graduate.
Certified with BCRPA – SFL, CSNA, (Certified Sport Nutrition Advisor) and a Truestar Ambassador, she shares her expertise at INFOFIT as an Elite Personal Trainer, an Apprenticeship Practicum Supervisor and Exam Preparation Tutor. INFOFIT is a school for fitness professionals provides courses for the development in becoming a BCRPA, ACE, ACSM, and NSCA certified personal trainer.