Poor diet is a factor in one in five deaths around the world, according to the most comprehensive study ever carried out on the subject by medical journal The Lancet. In their study, the Global Burden of Disease, they found that diet plays an important role in the prevention and management of many age-related diseases, including but not limited to:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cancers (cervical, colon, gallbladder, kidney, liver, ovarian, uterine, postmenopausal breast cancer and others not related to smoking).
So, with that in mind we wanted to look at the best heart health foods? If you are looking at heart-healthy foods, you are going to want to incorporate things that reduce inflammation, maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure. All of these foods can help you reduce your risk for heart disease and live a longer and healthier life. WebMD recommends the following Heart Healthy Foods:
- Fatty cold-water fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Berries that give you fibre and antioxidants
- Low-fat dairy containing calcium and vitamin D
- Whole-grain oats contain high amounts of fibre that have been shown to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol
- Olive oil instead of butter because it contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids
- Dark chocolate for its antioxidants which helps keep bad cholesterol down.
What are the best fats to support heart health?
All fats are not built the same. Choosing healthy fats in the right amounts is key for heart health and understanding what the different types of fats are will help you make a better and informed choice.
Types of Fat:
- Trans fats – 0% or less than 2%
- Saturated Fats – less than 10% of total daily caloric intake
- Monounsaturated Fats – between 15% and 20% of total daily caloric intake
- Polyunsaturated Fats – between 5% and 10% of total daily caloric intake
BEST – UNSATURATED FATS – These include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). These are your healthiest choices for heart and brain health with highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish (wild salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel), nuts, and flaxseed.
In Moderation – Saturated fats – Saturated fats are typically found in dairy and meat products and are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and should be moderated.
Avoid – Trans fats – Trans fats are heart killers and should be avoided at all costs. Most manufacturers have moved away from using trans fats in their foods because of risks associated with heart disease, though many packaged foods still have them. Check labels for hydrogenated oils.
What role do omega-3 fatty acids play in my health?
Omega-3’s are monosaturated fats, which are responsible for many heart healthy effects within the body. They reduce inflammation, promote good HDL cholesterol, and keep you healthy as you age. The University of Maryland reports that omega-3 fatty acids can help you reduce the risk and even reverse the effects of damage from the following conditions:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Depression and bipolar disorder
- Cognitive decline
- Skin disorders
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Marine forms of omega-3 fatty acids offer EPA and DHA and are found in oily fish. Plant forms of omega-3 fatty acids offer ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is found in plant foods, oils, seeds and nuts. ALA is not nearly as potent as the marine sources of omega-3’s EPA and DHA. Good sources of EPA and DHA (Experts recommend two servings of fish each week)
- Wild Caught Salmon
- Lake trout
For good plant sources of ALA you can enjoy these healthy fats in moderation daily:
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Brussels sprouts
Does diet put women at higher risk for heart disease? According to the Lancet’s report, diet is the leading cause of heart disease for both men and women. If you are worried about heart disease, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your risk.
- Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day
- Eat whole grains
- Choose lean healthy protein and cold water fish
- Limit high intakes of saturated fats
- Choose heart healthy monosaturated, polyunsaturated fats
- Avoid trans fats completely
- Sodium intake plays a significant role in heart disease, so limiting salt intake and cutting out processed foods that are high in salt can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
What foods reduce risks for cancer?
The causes of many types of cancer are still generally unknown, though science does agree that antioxidants do play a key role in their prevention. Antioxidants are substances in food that provide protection to cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals that may lead to cancer. Numerous studies have shown that when antioxidants interact with free radicals they have the power to prevent some of this damage and therefore possibly reduce risks for the development of cancer.
WebMD’s List Of Foods Highest In Antioxidants:
- Purple, red, and blue grapes
- Small red, kidney and pinto beans
- Wild blueberry
- Sweet potatoes
- Artichoke (cooked)
- Red delicious, granny smith and gala apples
- Sweet cherries
- Black plums
- Russet potato (cooked)
- Black beans (dried)
What role does diet play in risks for stroke?
One of the most common age-related diseases and the most devastating is a stroke. Not only can a stroke change the course of your life but it will also effect everyone around you. Knowing the role that diet plays in reducing your risk for stroke can help you avoid this dangerous medical condition. The Stroke Association recommends that your diet include:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals and fibre
- Unrefined whole grains
- Fish twice per week
- Avoiding foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol
- Avoiding refined sugars
- Limiting salt intake
Whatever your situation we recommend that you regularly check-in with your GP and always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet or health routines.