Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, and taking care of it is crucial for your overall health. But all too often, people neglect their heart health, leading to serious consequences down the road. One of the ways in which you can keep your heart healthy is by eating the right foods.
According to Dr Nontuthuko Mashimane, an iridologist and founder of Evolve Genix, a healthy diet for the heart should include a variety of fruits and vegetables. She also suggests that whole grains and products made mostly from whole grains are beneficial for heart health.
That does not mean you can’t enjoy meat. “If you eat meat and poultry, ensure it is lean and unprocessed,” she advises.
Good nutrition for the heart
Mashimane explains that potassium is an important nutrient for heart health and that consuming too much sodium can put stress on the heart. Eating less salty foods and more potassium-rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, bananas, spinach, and avocados, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to eating more potassium-rich foods, it’s also important to reduce your intake of processed and packaged foods, which are often high in sodium.
Mashimane says it’s easy to overlook the effects of our everyday habits on our heart health. Many people don’t realise that lifestyle factors like smoking, being sedentary, eating an unhealthy diet, and drinking too much alcohol can all increase the risk of heart disease. Even habits like drinking energy drinks, which are often perceived as harmless, can have a negative impact on the heart.
“Alone and together, they set the stage for artery-damaging atherosclerosis and spur it onward. They do this by deranging metabolism and changing cells and tissues.”
Dietary considerations for cardiovascular health
According to Adsa spokesperson Megan Pentz-Kluyts, a nutrition and dietetics consultant with a focus on cardiovascular health based in Cape Town, what you consume and don’t eat is merely one element of the puzzle.
Pentz-Kluyts suggests that oily fish, sardines, butterfish, salmon, mackerel, herring snoek, and fresh tuna are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition, plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids include leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, as well as nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, Brazil nuts, and pecans, add chai seeds and flaxseeds – in acceptable amounts to up your intake.
To select healthful oils, she recommends choosing between canola seed oil and linseed or flaxseed oil.
Pentz-Kluyts states that egg yolks (omega-3 poultry eggs) are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and quality protein.
“The doses included a blend of 24 different herbs and spices, ranging from basil and thyme to cinnamon and turmeric, designed to simulate the way people use different herbs and spices throughout the day while cooking.”
Harmful to the heart
Pentz-Kluyts says the following is a big no-no:
Processed meals and sugars
“Limit your intake of sugary foods such as cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolates, ice cream and sugary soft drinks to achieve a healthier weight and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, “she advises.
Despite the notion that alcohol may be used in moderation, Pentz-Kluyts contends that certain people shouldn’t drink at all if they:
- Have a history of liver disease, pancreatitis, heart failure, uncontrolled high blood pressure or high triglyceride levels.
- Are overweight.
- Are on medication that reacts adversely to alcohol.
- Unhealthy fats can include animal fats, like lard, butter, ghee, fatty meat, the skin of the chicken, and luncheon cold meats like polony, salami, viennas and boerewors.
- Watch out for hidden saturated fat typically found in chocolates, commercial cakes, pastries, doughnuts, biscuits and muffins.
- Read labels and avoid products with the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” and “trans fats”.
- Avoid coffee/tea creamers.
Foods high in salt
Salt flavouring agents, such as table salt, onion salt, celery salt, garlic salt, vegetable salt, barbeque and chicken spices, meat tenderisers, commercial sauces, soups, gravies, monosodium glutamate, and stock cubes/granules/liquid, can have a negative effect on the heart, explains Pentz-Kluyts.
“Processed foods like viennas, cold meats, ham, hamburger patties or bully beef, beef and pork sausages are very high in salt.”
She also lists the following:
- Bakery items – breads, biscuits and pastries
- Canned foods
- Convenience foods – frozen dinners, pizza, cereals and packaged mixes
- Deli items – bacon, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked meats or fish, and mayonnaise-based salads such as coleslaw
- Snack foods – crackers, crisps, chips and dips
- Condiments – stock cubes, monosodium glutamate, soup powders, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pickles, olives and salsa
- Sauces, that can include-, gravy, barbecue, prepared pasta sauces, teriyaki and soya sauces
- Pork rashers
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