Valentine’s Day comes along every February, but more importantly, the second month of the year is also Heart Month. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, almost everyone with heart disease will eventually experience heart failure. Depending on the severity of heart failure, half of patients will die within five years and most will die within 10 years. Heart failure affects 600,000 Canadians and another 50,000 will be diagnosed this year. But did you know, studies have shown up to 70% of heart disease cases are preventable with the right food choices?
Here are 5 ways you can eat your way to a healthier you:
Lentils – In a study of more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years, data in relation to heart disease revealed that legumes were associated with an 82% decrease in risk. Lentils’ contribution to heart health comes from fiber and the significant amounts of folate and magnesium they supply. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that damages artery walls and is considered a serious risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium allows veins and arteries to relax which lessens resistance and improves the flow of oxygen, blood, and other nutrients throughout the body.
Oats – A study conducted at Tufts University suggests oats have unique antioxidant compounds, called avenanthramides that help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The high fiber content in oats is also known to help remove cholesterol from the digestive system.
Nuts – Nuts are a good source of monounsaturated fats (emphasized in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet) and vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein and manganese which have been shown to promote heart health in numerous studies. Additionally, nuts contain resveratrol (found in red wine and blueberries). Results of a review study, which looked at four large studies linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, showed a 37% reduced risk compared to those who seldom or never ate nuts.
Potatoes – Potatoes are high in vitamin B6 which plays a critical role in methylation. Methylation can change that potentially dangerous homocysteine into other benign substances. Keep in mind, the most fibrous part of the potato is its skin, so if you want the cholesterol-lowering effects of fiber you have to eat the skin too, not just the center.
Wild salmon – This fleshy fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which improves the metabolic markers for heart disease. Salmon is also a great source of selenium, an antioxidant shown to boost cardiovascular protection. Another great heart-friendly option is fresh sardines.
The bottom line is that you can keep your blood cholesterol levels in check and take a step forward in preventing heart disease by eating well. Choose foods low in trans fats and saturated fats while increasing your consumption of unsaturated fats and fiber by eating lean cuts of meat and fish, nuts and seeds, whole grain breads and cereals, oats, oat bran, beans, peas and lentils, and vegetables and fruits with their peels.