Foods that are good for your heart and your waistline

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It’s really not too difficult to eat a diet that safeguards your heart. And a heart healthy diet can also be good for your waistline.

“You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day,” says Julie Zumpano, a dietitian in the Preventive Cardiology and Nutrition Program at Cleveland Clinic.

“There is a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart. Try to eat foods that are in their natural form, as they come from the ground.”

The ‘whole food diet’ includes fish, wholegrains, vegetables and fruits, as well as the occasional glass of red wine or piece of dark chocolate.

Breakfast
Introducing flaxseeds in ground or milled form into your diet will bring up your omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and phytoestrogen (plant-derived estrogen) levels and you can easily sprinkle them on your morning bowl of oatmeal.

Dark beans, such as kidney or black beans, are high in fibre, B-vitamin and minerals and can be whipped into a basic ‘baked-bean’ style recipe for breakfast.

Snacks
If you’re feeling peckish, try a handful of nuts such as almonds or walnuts, or chow down on blueberries, strawberries, cranberries or raspberries in cereal or yoghurt, for a heart-healthy dose of phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrients) and soluble fibre.

Fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus make for another healthy snack, as they contain a plethora of nutrients, including vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fibre. Oranges, cantaloupes and papaya are also quick and easy snacks, and they’re packed with beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fibre.

Lunch/dinner
Instead of using lettuce or rocket, fill your sandwiches with spinach. Tomatoes are also a good filler, as they’re packed with lycopene, vitamin C and both alpha- and beta-carotene – even sun-dried versions are heart healthy.

Fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout, should be high on your list. Accompany your fish dinner with asparagus for your fill of beta-carotene, folate and fibre. Carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, acorn squash and other red, yellow and orange veggies are packed with carotenoids, fibre and vitamins to help your heart.

If you’re not a fan of fish, try marinated tofu instead.

A small glass of red wine for the gals and two for the guys can actually improve your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. And finish off your meal with a piece of 70 per cent cocoa dark chocolate, for a final daily dose of heart healthy sweetness.

While this menu could be followed daily, even just a few simple food swaps could make a big difference to your heart.

How much of this food do you eat each day?

RELATED LINKS

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Heart disease – what it is and what to do if you’re at risk

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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