Ten winning foods

Less fat, less cholesterol, less salt, less calories... there's not just "less," there's also "more"... Here are 10 foods to add to your menu to promote heart health!

1. Oatmeal

Soluble fibre protects against cardiovascular disease by lowering the cholesterol rate in some people. Three grams a day is sufficient. This is the amount found in about 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) of cooked oatmeal or 250 ml (1 cup) of cooked oat bran. Soluble fibre is also found in psyllium, barley, legumes (dried peas, beans, lentils, etc.) and fruit like apples, strawberries and citrus.

2. Salmon and fatty fish

Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3. These fatty acids help counteract the formation of blood clots and reduce triglycerides and inflammation and so lower the risk of heart disease.  It is recommended to eat at least 180 g of fatty fish - salmon, mackerel, herring or canned white tuna – per week. This represents one or two meals, depending on the portion size. That’s not all… according to a study published in the scientific journal Circulation in 2004, eating fish twice a week would reduce coronary mortality by 23%, and by 38% if you eat it five times a week.

3. Pomegranate and blueberries

Pomegranate and blueberries top the list of fruit containing the most antioxidants. Antioxidants are beneficial to the health of your heart for several reasons. Scientists speculate they lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and thrombosis.

4. Soya

Scientific studies have shown that soya was effective in reducing blood cholesterol levels as part of a balanced diet. This is due to the protein and isoflavones (antioxidants) it contains. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003 even claims that people with high cholesterol may reduce their level of “bad cholesterol” by adopting a vegetarian diet containing large amounts of soya and fibre. So bring on the soya beverages, tofu, and roasted soybeans, etc.

5. Fruit and vegetables

It’s hard to favour one over the other as both fruit and vegetables are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre, all beneficial to your cardiovascular health. Fruit and vegetables are also relatively low in calories; this makes them allies in our quest to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. That’s another way to reduce your risk of heart disease. A worthy goal: eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

6. Olive oil

The monounsaturated fats in olive oil help stabilize blood pressure in people who suffer from high blood pressure. They also help to reduce total cholesterol and “bad cholesterol” (LDL), without affecting “good cholesterol” (HDL). The benefits of olive oil on cardiovascular health only kick in if you reduce your intake of fatty foods and don’t overeat. And remember this: olive oil is good for your health but does contain a lot of calories (126 calories per tablespoon).

7. Garlic

Garlic contains antioxidants. As part of a healthy diet, it can help lower triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood and moderately high blood pressure. It may also prevent atherosclerosis. You should ideally eat one to two raw cloves a day… with a little parsley to freshen the breath!

8. Nuts and peanuts

Nuts and peanuts help reduce the risk of heart disease, if consumed regularly. Studies have shown that eating 30 to 60 g (1 to 2 oz) of nuts a day at least five days a week would reduce the risk of disease by 25 to 50%. Nuts and peanuts contain a host of nutrients that are beneficial to heart health, such as polyunsaturated fat, dietary fibre, vitamin E, folate, potassium, magnesium and selenium. However, they are high in calories so it is recommended to eat small amounts regularly. Eat a variety to enjoy the particular features of each type of nut. Peanut and nut butters are also beneficial.

9. Legumes

Legumes contain valuable soluble fibre. They are also rich in protein and low in fat and salt. This is the perfect food if you want to eat well and take care of your heart.

10. Fresh herbs

Herbs offer endless possibilities to season vegetables, fish, poultry and reduce the use of salt and butter. As not every taste mixes well together, it is a good idea to know which herb to use when.  Here are some examples.

Herbs go well with…

  • Basil: Tomatoes, salad, pasta, chicken, minestrone, veal
  • Coriander: Mexican dishes, chicken, vegetable soup
  • Tarragon: Dressing, salad, chicken
  • Oregano: Tomates, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, pasta
  • Mint: Carrots, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, lamb
  • Parsley: Tomatoes, salad and almost all vegetables
  • Sage: Haricots, chicken
  • Thyme: Tomatoes, mixed vegetables, chicken
  • Dill: Fish, cucumbers, potato salad
  • Rosemary: Eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, lamb, pork

Healthy Eating for Your Heart

Two accessories are essential in order to prepare low-fat foods, a good non-stick skillet and cooking spray. While it is not absolutely required, there is a third accessory that could come in handy… a good cookbook. Here are our suggestions:

By Paul Gayler and Jacqui Lynas (Kyle Cathie, $20.72). A collection of recipes devised by a leading chef and based on nutritional advice, these 100 recipes have been created to tempt your taste buds and keep your heart healthy.

The New Lighthearted Cookbook

By Anne Lyndsay (Key Porter Books, $22.95). It features over 150 recipes and features the latest information on the basics of healthy eating for children, teens, adults, and seniors

Hélène Laurendeau

A nutrition and health enthusiast who loves to share: this description fits Hélène Laurendeau to a tee. She has been active for more than 25 years in the media and communications field. Nutritionist, host, columnist, author and speaker, Hélène holds a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and a Master degree in Epidemiology. She has spread her knowledge alongside Ricardo every week since 2005, as part of his daily show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, as well as in Ricardo magazine, where she pens the Bien se nourrir (Eating Well) column.