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Want a healthy heart? 10 foods to stay in top shape

EVERY day your heart creates enough energy to drive a truck for 35 kilometres making it the hardest working organ in your body.

It beats 60-70 times a minute, or roughly 100,000 times a day and to keep it functioning at its best you need a good diet and plenty of exercise.

“Every day your heart creates enough energy to drive a truck for 35 kilometres,” says scientist Sheila Zhou, spokeswoman for USANA Health Sciences.

“The World Health Organisation says you can prevent heart disease through healthy lifestyle choices which includes diet, exercise and weight management.”

But being healthy doesn’t have to be dull. Here are 10 foods and fun activities to get your heart into top shape.

Foods your heart will love

Oats:

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A bowl of oats is loaded with dietary fibre, folate, iron and other essential minerals. One serve a day will lower your levels of LDL cholesterol and help keep you regular. Avoid the instant oats as they have been highly processed. Traditional, rolled oats are best.

Dark chocolate:
Loaded with antioxidants, chocolate helps keep your arteries flexible. It prevents white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels, lessening the chances of a heart attack or stroke. The darker the chocolate, the better the health benefit but don’t over do it. One small square of a high quality brand should keep you heart-happy.

Cinnamon:
If you’re craving something sweet then step away from the sugar and reach for the cinnamon. Just one teaspoon a day improves metabolic health, reducing cholesterol levels and helps in protecting blood from damaging oxidation.

Salmon:
This oily fish is packed with omega-3 to maintain healthy blood pressure and help keep normal triglyceride levels. The Heart Foundation advises just two servings a week can significantly reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Avocado:
Adding a few slices of avocado to your meal at least 2-3 times a week will increase the amount of vitamin E and heart-healthy fats in your diet, and help raise the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in your body.

Garlic:
Rich in vitamin A and C, selenium and zinc, one or two cloves of garlic a day will keep your heart happy by maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol level. You don’t have to eat it raw — cooked is just as good!

Berries:
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, goji. It doesn’t matter which type you prefer, they’re all great. Loaded with antioxidants these super fruits help maintain vascular and heart health. There’s little nutritional difference with frozen but fresh is always better.

Tofu:
More than just a great form of protein for vegetarians, tofu contains a significant amount of polyunsaturated fats, fibre and heart-healthy minerals. Try replacing one of your meat meals with tofu once a week.

Sweet potatoes:
Unlike white potatoes, these have a low glycaemic index and will not cause an increase in your blood sugar. They are also a great source of vitamin A and lycopene which are important for optimum heart function. Try wrapping them in foil and bake in the oven.

Carrots:
Rich in betacarotene and lutein, this single vegetable can help reduce your risk of heart disease. This, combined with their ability to help acute vision, makes them the perfect choice for any meal. Carrots are best absorbed when cooked with a little olive oil.

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