I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.
In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.
Healthy Eating for the Heart.
The aim of this eating plan is to help maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of diabetes, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure all of which are contributory factors to heart disease. Ideally you will combine this plan with an exercise programme to maximise the benefits and you will find some links in the weight loss programme at the start of the year. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-loss-reduction-2017/
Firstly, it is more than likely that you already know that certain lifestyle choices you have made may be contributing to heart disease. If you are a smoker you are at a higher risk of developing arterial disease and a heart attack. If you eat too many junk foods, high in saturated fats and sugars, you are risking high cholesterol and probably diabetes. If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol then you are again taking chances with your heart health.
The good news is that eating a healthy heart programme need not be boring. In fact it will mean that you get to spend more time in the kitchen experimenting with all the wonderful alternatives to fats and sugars that are available everywhere. You need not compromise on taste and after a few weeks you will wonder how you managed to eat food that was so fatty, salty and sweet.
The aim is to eat all natural, unprocessed foods that have been touched by no other human hands than the one who picked it, packed it and yours.
I am going to give you a list of foods that have a specific role in preventing artery damage and heart disease. In that list are some foods that are high in potassium, along with the minerals Calcium and Magnesium. Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health and calcium and magnesium are essential to balance the potassium in the body.
You should be careful of supplementing with potassium if you are on heart or blood pressure medications but eating fruits and vegetables that contain this mineral in moderation once or twice a week should not be a problem. It is also important to balance their intake with calcium and magnesium rich foods and I note those in the list.
It depends on the medication so always check with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist.
The foods to EXCLUDE in your healthy heart diet
It is easier to detail the foods that you should not include in your healthy heart eating plan as you can eat everything that is natural and unprocessed limiting any other foods to a maximum of 20% of your daily diet. Notice that I say avoid – this does not mean cut out all together as that is impractical – but there is a huge difference between having two biscuits each time you have a cup of tea and having two once or twice a week. Ice cream is delicious and having once a week is not going to be the cause of a heart attack – but it will be if you have every day in combination with bacon, ready meals, cakes, sausages, processed sauces, biscuits etc.
These contain extremely high levels of salt and phosphorus, as well as harmful additives and colorants.
White packaged breads tend to have a great many additives, cheap brown bread that comes wrapped in plastic has probably been treated to a caramel colour rinse as well as having a white flour base. In house bakery whole grain bread is about the best option if you do not want to spend the time making yourself.
Although some margarine may be low fat they contain hydrogenated fats and additives and it is better for your health to have a little butter on your bread and potatoes.
Do not drink fizzy or condensed fruit drinks as they have extremely high levels of sugar and colorants. Also Aspartame is still raising its ugly head despite manufacturers wishing it into the healthy column. There have been some comments from people that they have it on good authority that it is harmless and that it is just hype. My philosophy is to follow the money. There is no financial gain to be made with the argument that artificial sweeteners including Aspartame are harmful to our health. But there is a great deal of money at stake for those who use it across the board in their products.
Moderate your intake of alcohol to no more than two average size glasses of wine per night or one spirit. Better to restrict to a couple of glasses when you are out for a meal at the weekend.
Take a close look at the labels on any mineral water that you drink and ensure that the sodium levels are below 1.0.
Foods that help your heart stay healthy
I am a firm believer in eating foods that are packed with nutrients. If you need to lose weight you need to eat less calories, but that should not be at the expense of nutrition. I have already introduced you to several of these foods in previous blogs. The following ones in particular contribute to a healthy heart and help prevent high blood pressure and elevated and oxidised LDL cholesterol levels. Combined with lean proteins such as eggs, fish including some oily fish and poultry, these foods will help maintain your healthy heart.
Brown Rice Pilaf packed with heart healthy ingredients.
- All vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants, which remove free radicals from the system and also promote the growth of healthy cells and tissue. They can all be eaten freely on your healthy heart diet, but here are some in particular that are very beneficial.
- Avocados with their healthy fat that actively helps to reduce cholesterol. They also contain potassium.
- Dried apricots are high in potassium and fibre.
- Banana has fibre too, which helps clear the system of debris and keeps the arteries clean. Also it contains potassium so important for a healthy heart provided you are not on a potassium restricted diet. Don’t forget to include calcium and magnesium rich foods that help balance the potassium.
- Beans for fibre to keep arteries clear, potassium, low fat protein and magnesium.
- Broccoli contains calcium and magnesium to help balance the potassium in your blood stream
- Brown rice helps keep your cholesterol down and your arteries healthy with its fibre.
- Brussel sprouts for their antioxidants and potassium
- Figs for their alkaline effect on the body and potassium levels.
- Green tea with its antioxidants, which inhibit the enzymes that produce free radicals in the lining of the arteries. This not only prevents plaque from forming but also improves the ratio of LDL (lousy cholesterol) to HDL (healthy cholesterol)
- Kiwi fruit for Vitamin C and potassium
- Oranges with their fibre to help keep arteries clear and their Vitamin C which prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oranges are also high in potassium.
- Oats with their fibre called beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
- Olive oil for essential fatty acids.
- Onions in particular which contain sulphur compounds that along with B6 and chromium help lower homocysteine levels in the blood- homocysteine causes platelets to clump so that they can attach themselves to the walls of the arteries and block them. One of the major causes of high blood pressure.
- Pears for fibre and potassium
- Potatoes for kukoamines to reduce blood pressure and fibre.
- Prunes and prune juice for antioxidants, potassium and fibre.
- Raisins for potassium.
- Salmon, halibut, sardines and scallops high in Omega 3 and B6 – has the same effect as walnuts. Also contain calcium and magnesium.
- Skimmed (semi) milk and low fat yoghurt for calcium, potassium, low fat protein and its possible ability to reduce blood pressure.
- Spinach for many nutrients but also potassium and calcium.
- Shitake mushrooms that have so many therapeutic benefits apart from their definite effect on heart health
- Tomatoes for antioxidants and potassium
- Tofu as a vegetarian option for low fat protein, calcium and magnesium.
- Walnuts, most unsalted nuts and seeds with their monounsaturated fat which lowers lipoprotein in the blood. Remember, Lipoprotein causes platelets to clot which in turn can lead to strokes or a cerebral aneurysm. Walnuts also contain B6, which is very important for a healthy cardiovascular system in general.
- Wholegrains in the form of unprocessed, fresh baked bread and natural cereals, without additives, to provide B vitamins, fibre and magnesium.
As always if you are on prescribed medication check the fine print but it is also important to do your research. Sodium and potassium are very important for the body and you should not or must exclude completely.
Our bodies are designed to extract the nutrients that they need from natural food we consume. It is the additional and hidden levels in industrial foods that are the problem.
Eating a ‘cook from scratch’ diet which is richly varied is the best approach to a healthy heart.
©sallycronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2017
Please feel free to share and as always welcome your feedback. thanks Sally