A heart-healthy daily menu

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 articles:
Heart disease hotspots revealed
Heart disease and what to do
Heart attack risk rises with BMI

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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