With nearly 10,000 people dying of cardiovascular related disease in Ireland every year, what can you do to help improve your heart health?
Maggie Lynch of the Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health believes nutrition is a key factor. She recommends that we enjoy more veggies; do a grain ‘swap’; embrace ‘good’ fats; choose low sugar berries; and mix and match protein sources
Enjoy more veggies
Increase the intake and diversity of vegetables you eat. They are an important source of vitamins and minerals and are rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that are vital for heart health. They are also high in fibre and low in calories.
- Aim for six different coloured vegetable servings – cooked or raw – each day. The dark green leafy ones (kale, cabbage, spinach etc) are best of all, and my favourites.
- Use them in your smoothies, as dips with hummus, and in soups & stews. Refrigerate leftovers for the next day or blend them into pasta sauces and freeze.
Do a grain swap
Replace refined, white grain products with wholegrains. They are a richer source of fibre, protein, minerals and B vitamins.
- Swap white bread, pasta and wraps for wholegrain versions.
- Introduce quinoa, millet, buckwheat, pin-head oats, beans and lentils.
Embrace good fats
Omega 3 oils are known to boost cholesterol quality by raising the level of HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) in the blood and helping reduce inflammation in the body. Oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines etc) are naturally rich in omega 3s, while walnuts, flax and chia seeds are useful plant sources.
- Eat a serving of oily fish twice weekly.
- Drizzle good oils over your food. I use unrefined, cold pressed oils (Udo’s Oil, organic rapeseed, or extra virgin olive oil) as the goodness has not been processed out of them. Udo’s is a quality vegan source of omega 3, 6 & 9 oils.
- To avoid damaging their health benefits, it’s best not to use these oils for cooking or frying. I use olive oil (not extra virgin), unrefined sesame oil, butter and coconut oil.
Choose low sugar berries
Eat low sugar berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry) often. They are rich in antioxidants, fibre and phytonutrients that offer protection from cardio vascular disease. Be sure to wash them before eating.
Do a protein mix & match
Animal meat and specific vegetables are excellent sources of protein so don’t feel you have to eat meat every day.
- Add in beans, chickpeas and lentils. They are high in protein and some B vitamins and minerals. Find recipes that help you incorporate them into your diet, such as my ‘Smoky Chickpea Stew’ (below).
- Buy meat which is the least processed (fresh cuts and organic or free-range chicken). Avoid preserved meats as many contain high levels of salt and potentially harmful preservatives (nitrates and nitrites).
For more information pick up a copy of the newly published Udo’s Healthy Habits your Heart will Love which is now available in health food stores and pharmacies nationwide