In the UK, over 7 million people are living with heart disease. Someone is admitted to the hospital every five minutes due to a heart attack. That’s over 100,000 people!
These figures can seem daunting. However, there are several ways to improve your heart health that will benefit your future. You can begin your journey toward a healthy diet with adequate exercise and diet.
Changing your lifestyle is hard. Settling into unhealthy habits is very easy but incredibly difficult to change. That’s why it’s best to start small and build. One way to start small is to start eating the right foods. Here are seven healthy food to help you on your path to a healthy lifestyle.
1. Leafy green vegetables
You’ve probably had an older relative, teacher, or personal trainer telling you this – but they’re right. While many people can’t stand the taste of green vegetables, their health benefits are undeniable.
The leafy greens you’re looking for are kale, spinach, cabbage, watercress – the list goes on. Really, you’re looking for vegetables that fit the description. They’re all low in calories but high in nutrition, like Vitamin K, which is renowned for its health benefits. Plus, not only does it help your heart, but it can aid your memory, and eyesight, and even help prevent some types of cancer.
However, ensure you’re not coating these foods in butter, as this can erase the good work these foods do. Also, avoid overcooking them as this can remove their valuable nutrition.
In general, fish is a healthy food option. It’s low in fat but high in calcium and phosphorus. Oily fish is even healthier as it is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which greatly benefit the heart. Fish can lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, removing strain from your heart.
Fish to look out for are salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna. There are plenty of healthy and delicious recipes online to encourage your love for fish. Just make sure not to smother them with too much fatty cheese!
Berries benefit our health in many ways, especially for our hearts. They’re known to prevent inflammation that contributes to the development of heart disease. Berries improve the cell function of blood vessels, which helps with blood pressure, clotting, and cholesterol.
Berries are a healthy alternative to unhealthy snacking. Swap out the packet of crisps for a handful of berries, and your heart will thank you in the future!
4. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great potato substitute. Are you looking to freshen up your meals? Add a splash of colour and flavour with sweet potatoes.
Not only are they tasty, but they have multiple health benefits. They are proven to benefit gut health while slowing the development of some cancers. Not only that, but they also lower your body’s cholesterol levels which help your heart.
Nuts may be high in fat, but they have many health benefits – especially for your heart. Nuts are said to lower cholesterol levels, artery function, and inflammation which affects the heart.
Not only do nuts benefit your heart, but they also can help with stress levels and weight loss. Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease. So, swapping out the biscuits for some nuts is bound to better your health.
Popular in East Asian dishes, edamame are green soybeans rich in nutrients. You can enjoy them in salads, stir fry, or sushi bowls making them a great healthy lunch or dinner option.
Edamame is thought to reduce cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can lead to fat blocking blood vessels, restricting blood flow around the body. Thus, foods that lower cholesterol reduce this threat, proving vital for heart health.
7. Dark chocolate
This one might come as a surprise, but not all heart-friendly foods need to be boring! Dark chocolate is a delicious treat but also has proven health benefits. It’s full of antioxidants like flavonoids, which can help boost heart health.
However, the health benefits of dark chocolate are only found when the percentage of coca is at least 70%. The taste of this chocolate differs from milk chocolate and may require some getting used to. Plus, it’s important to remember that moderation is key.
Eat your way to a healthier heart!
As mentioned before, changing your lifestyle isn’t easy. Unhealthy habits are much easier to fall into than good habits. But, with a little commitment and dedication, you can turn your life around for the better. After introducing these seven heart-friendly foods into your diet, you’ll be on your way to a healthier heart, body, and mind!
However, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you're concerned about your heart. If you have a family history of heart disease or are experiencing any worrying symptoms, ask for an echocardiogram to soothe your worries. This ultrasound will scan your heart for any troubling concerns. While a healthy diet will help your heart, you shouldn’t put off seeing the doctor as this usually only causes more problems.