Foods that can give your heart a health boost

The Chronicle - - Health & Lifestyle -

YOU’RE never too young to start think­ing about your heart health. In fact, there’s grow­ing ev­i­dence that the sooner you start with healthy life­style habits, the bet­ter off you’ll be fur­ther down the line.

We don’t like to sound mor­bid, but heart dis­ease is among one of the big­gest killers in the UK – and it can af­fect any­body.

The good news is, there’s lots of ev­i­dence that a healthy life­style can re­ally help cut the risk of heart dis­ease, heart at­tacks and strokes.

Along­side main­tain­ing a healthy weight, get­ting reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, not smok­ing and be­ing sen­si­ble with your al­co­hol in­take, this means a healthy, bal­anced diet – and no, that doesn’t mean bor­ing, bland and over­priced ‘health foods’.

Don’t be­lieve us? Check out these seven heart-boost­ing foods – all su­per-good for your ticker, and su­per-tasty...


IT’S of­ten claimed that the Mediter­ranean diet is one of the health­i­est go­ing – par­tic­u­larly in terms of low­er­ing the risk of heart dis­ease (and there’s plenty of sci­ence back­ing this up).

Along with choles­terol-low­er­ing olive oil and lots of oily fish, toma­toes are a key fea­ture of this sun-drenched re­gion’s fare – and they’re packed with an­tiox­i­dants and vi­ta­mins A and C.

But it’s their high con­tents of ly­copene – the sub­stance that gives toma­toes their bright red colour – that gives them an ex­tra edge in the heart-health boost­ing stakes.

Re­search has as­so­ci­ated ly­copene with a range of ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing low­er­ing ‘bad’ choles­terol, and re­duc­ing in­flam­ma­tion and blood pres­sure – all things linked with pro­tect­ing your ticker.


WE’VE all heard it said that choco­late is good for your heart, and it re­ally is true. But – and it’s a very BIG but – only the qual­ity dark stuff with high co­coa con­tent (we’re not talk­ing sugar-loaded milk choco­late, sorry). A mod­est serv­ing of proper dark choco­late ev­ery now and then though could cer­tainly count as a hearthealthy choice. As Dr Hazel Wal­lace, aka ‘The Food Medic’, notes: “Un­known to many, ca­cao is one of the most nu­tri­ent-dense foods in the world be­cause of its rich source of nu­tri­ents known as polyphe­nols, packed with an­tiox­i­dants. “Ca­cao has also been shown to re­duce the amount of both LDL (bad choles­terol) and to­tal choles­terol, which re­duces the risk of heart dis­ease.”


FLAXSEED – along with sim­i­lar things like chia seeds and hemp – is a su­per-sim­ple way to give your daily diet an ex­tra healthy kick (sprin­kle on your break­fast bowl, in smooth­ies, or even to add tex­ture in soups and sal­ads).

Talk­ing on be­half of UK milled seed and nut pro­ducer Lin­woods (lin­woods health­, Dr Wal­lace adds: “Flaxseed is a heart-health su­per food, full of fi­bre which helps lower choles­terol, and omega-3 fatty acids which can help im­prove your good choles­terol.” Toma­toes are rich in vi­ta­mins A and C Beans and pulses can help lower LDL choles­terol Flax seeds are a heart-health su­per­food


THEY’RE not al­ways the most ap­peal­ing of foods, but beans and pulses truly are a star com­po­nent of a healthy diet. When it comes to heart health, they’re proven to help lower LDL choles­terol (a 2016 study pub­lished in The Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Nu­tri­tion found a daily serv­ing of pulses can cut ‘bad’ choles­terol by 5%), and are a good source of low-fat pro­tein and fi­bre – cru­cial for sup­port­ing over­all well­ness and weight man­age­ment.

Will Hawkins, a nu­tri­tion­ist at on­line GP ser­vice Push Doc­tor, adds: “They also keep you fuller for longer, so you’re less likely to reach for any un­healthy, fatty



THERE’S a lot to be said for giv­ing oily fish – such as salmon – a reg­u­lar spot on your weekly menu.

For starters, it’s a great source of lean pro­tein, so will help with main­tain­ing a healthy weight while en­sur­ing you still feel sat­is­fied and en­er­gised from your meals.

Plus, as Will says: “It con­tains omega-3, which has two key ben­e­fits. The first is it im­proves brain func­tion; the sec­ond is it’s su­perb for heart health.

“Stud­ies have shown omega-3 can keep blood pres­sure and heart rate in check, re­duce your risk of heart at­tacks, lower LDL choles­terol and in­crease HDL (good) choles­terol.

“Our bodies can’t make omega-3 ei­ther, so we need to get it from our diet.”


NUTS in gen­eral make for great healthy snacks (al­though go easy with those salted and roasted va­ri­eties).

Al­monds are an es­pe­cially good choice when it comes to hearts, as they’re loaded with thi­amine, a B vi­ta­min that helps with car­dio­vas­cu­lar func­tion, plus linoleic acid which aids in main­tain­ing nor­mal blood choles­terol lev­els.

A 2015 study pub­lished on be­half of the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion found that peo­ple who snack on a hand­ful of al­monds (as op­posed to a high­carb snack with equiv­a­lent calo­ries) had re­duced belly fat and waist cir­cum­fer­ences – two things as­so­ci­ated with a lower risk of heart dis­ease. Nu­tri­tion con­sul­tant, Juli­ette Kel­low, says: “I rec­om­mend snack­ing on a hand­ful (28 grams) of al­monds a day, as this will sup­ply you with sev­eral key nu­tri­ents that can help sup­port a healthy heart.” Mixed berries are low fat and low calo­rie


DARK berries – think black­cur­rants, blue­ber­ries and straw­ber­ries – are jam-packed with heart-sup­port­ing vi­ta­mins, an­tiox­i­dants and polyphe­nols, which have been found to be par­tic­u­larly use­ful in keep­ing ar­ter­ies in good nick. Like toma­toes, the sub­stances that give them their gor­geous colour­ing of­ten mean ex­tra heart-pro­tect­ing ben­e­fits too. A study pub­lished in the jour­nal Cir­cu­la­tion found that a daily serv­ing of berries, such as blue­ber­ries and straw­ber­ries, was linked with a lower heart at­tack risk. They’re nat­u­rally sweet and de­li­cious – yet also su­per low-fat and low-calo­rie – which means they’re fan­tas­tic for help­ing main­tain a healthy weight, while still keep­ing that sweet tooth happy.

Oily fish, in­clud­ing salmon, is a great source of pro­tein

A hand­ful of al­monds a day could do won­ders

Dark choco­late is packed with an­tiox­i­dants

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