Heart disease: Your ultimate guide
Heart disease - or cardiovascular disease (CVD) - is a collective term for a disorder that affects the structure and functions of the heart and circulation.
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10 super foods that can save your heart
Eat these heart-healthy foods to ensure you don’t suffer from heart disease.
“This delicious fruit contains a fibre called pectin, which helps fight LDL cholesterol (this ‘bad’ cholesterol collects in the walls of your blood vessels, clogging your arteries), and potassium that helps lower your blood pressure,” says Gabriel Eksteen, dietician and exercise physiologist at the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
To get your OJ fill, choose freshly pressed orange juice, as many pre-pressed juices you find in most shops contain a lot of sugar. Remember to add the pulp for an extra fibre boost.
2. Beans & legumes
A very versatile food, beans are packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre, which can all help control cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels. Use them in hearty winter soups, stews, casseroles or curries, or give salads a boost by adding chickpeas and lentils. Eksteen says that even old-time favourites, baked beans, are great, but choose brands with reduced sugar and salt.
3. Oily fish
Oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, snoek and mackerel all contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can lower your blood pressure, fight inflammation and help maintain ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. Try having omega-3 rich fish at least twice a week.
“The trick is to be creative here: think fishcakes and homemade paté or spread,” suggests Eksteen.
4. Seeds & nuts
Seeds and nuts are a great source of fibre and rich in healthy fats, vitamins and minerals that help keep LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol down and your heart healthy. “Most important is to buy them unsalted. Most of us eat too much salt already, which means salted nuts can do more harm than good,” says Eksteen. Seeds or nuts can be added to virtually any meal, from salads to desserts.
5. Plant oils
Most of us know about olive oil’s cholesterol-busting, antioxidant-boosting properties, but olive oil is not alone. Canola oil is not only cheaper, it also contains more healthy fatty acids than olive oil does. Use them on salads, over-cooked vegetables, or to replace butter on bread.
Neither of these two do particularly well at high temperatures though, so rather use sunflower, avocado or other seed oils when frying.
Popular as a breakfast food, oats is a great source of dietary fibre. The high fibre content causes it to digest slower and makes you fuller for longer, helping you to control your weight.
Oats is also known to help with improved blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
7. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a South African favourite: whether you mash them, cut them into fries or make fritters, they’re great for your heart. Sweet potatoes are low GI, which helps control your blood sugar levels. They also contain fibre, vitamin A and cancer-busting lycopene, the pigment that gives fruit and vegetables their red colour.
When you cook them make sure you go easy on the salt and sugar, cautions Eksteen.
Dairy plays an important role in your diet providing protein, B vitamins, calcium and other minerals,” says Eksteen. It’s also very versatile and can be used as a base for dips and sauces instead of cream, with cereal, or on its own.
Just remember, yoghurt contains saturated fats, so rather opt for the lower fat versions. Also keep an eye on sugar content, even with plain yoghurt.
Berries are another of Mother Nature’s super foods, bursting with vitamin C and fibre. Blueberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins (which gives them their blue colour) that are great for the health of your blood vessels. Add some berries to your oats in the morning, have some with yoghurt, add them to smoothies, or just grab a handful by themselves for a healthy dessert.
10. Herbs & spices
We cook with herbs all the time, but usually only in small amounts. “Using more herbs and spices when cooking in place of salt can help to reduce your salt intake, one of the key contributors to high blood pressure,” says Eksteen. It doesn’t matter whether it’s dried or fresh, as long as it’s not mixed with salt, cautions Eksteen.