One of the best things you and your family can do for the health of your heart is follow a healthy, balanced diet – but which foods should you load up on to help keep your heart going strong? These 6 are a good start.
They may be high in fat (happily, the ‘good’ kind, called monounsaturated fat) but avocados are also packed with fibre and can help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, while raising ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Tip: Besides everyone’s favourite way of eating avocado – smashed on toast – try sliced avocado on rice crackers spread with Greek yoghurt. If your kids enjoy fruit smoothies, try throwing some avocado in with frozen blueberries or raspberries and milk for extra thickness.
Beans contain a type of starch that can help lower LDL cholesterol. Research also suggests beans can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, both of which can lead to heart disease.
Tip: Beans make a great substitute for meat in many dishes. Add black or kidney beans to soups or stews, or blitz beans in the blender with herbs and olive oil for a healthier dip.
The compound that gives blueberries their colour is also what makes them good for your heart – anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant, are believed to keep blood vessels healthy.
Blueberries also contain fibre, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and phytonutrients – all good for heart health.
Tip: Pile blueberries on top of cereal or yoghurt, or add them to smoothies. You can also freeze them and use them as ‘ice cubes’ (make sure you eat them when you finish your drink).
It’s the soluble fibre, called beta-glucan, in oats that can help reduce LDL and total cholesterol. Oats also contain a rare group of antioxidants – called avenanthramides – that may help lower blood pressure.
Tip: It’s best to avoid instant oats, which are processed, and stick to steel-cut oats if you can. For a twist on the traditional breakfast version of oats, add cheese, spring onion and tomatoes to cooked oats for a savoury meal. Looking for something sweeter? You could try baked banana muffins, or blueberry oat muffins with cinnamon for kids.
Rich in vitamin A, lycopene (an antioxidant) and fibre – which helps lower heart disease risk – sweet potatoes also have a low glycaemic index, so they don’t cause blood sugar spikes, like regular potatoes. Eat them with the skin on for even more fibre.
Tip: Try roasting sweet potato wedges with a pinch of cinnamon and a squeeze of lime juice, or mash them up and serve with beans for an extra heart-friendly meal.
Eating fish can keep your heart happy – in particular, oily fish like mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna and salmon. These are all good sources of omega-3 fats – the type of fats that help protect against heart disease. Aim to include a portion of oily fish in your meals once a week.
Tip: Not only are tinned mackerel and sardines good for you, they’re affordable too. Mash some up with diced red pepper, red onion, cucumber and a splash of olive oil – pile onto wholewheat toast or add to salad.
- avocados are high in monounsaturated fat and fibre, which may be good for heart health
- beans contain a type of starch that can help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol
- blueberries contain an antioxidant that’s believed to keep blood vessels healthy
- a type of fibre called beta-glucan makes oats good for heart health
- switch regular potatoes for sweet potatoes, which have more heart-health benefits
- include a portion of oily fish in your meals once a week for heart health