5 healthy eating habits your heart will love
Your diet is one of the best tools you’ve got for preventing coronary heart disease, one of the biggest killers in the UK.
If improving your heart health is one of your new year’s resolutions, you’ve come to the right place!
We’ve compiled a list of five easy heart-healthy tips for switching up your diet, so keep reading to find out the simple changes you can start making today.
Reduce your saturated fat
Eating too much fat, particularly saturated fat, can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.
Foods high in saturated fats include fatty cuts of meat, butter or lard, cheese, cream, chocolate confectionery, biscuits, cakes, pastries, palm oil, coconut oil and certain savoury snacks like cheese crackers and some popcorns.
It’s recommended that men should limit their saturated fat intake to no more than 30g a day, women 20g, and children even less.
It’s not all bad news about fat though - replacing the saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats can actually help to lower your cholesterol levels.
Unsaturated fats are mostly found in oils from plants and fish, and can be found in the following foods:
- Olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and spreads made from these oils
- Certain nuts like almonds, brazils and peanuts
- Oily fish like kippers, herring and salmon
While including unsaturated fats in your diet is great for your heart, you should make sure to limit your total fat intake to no more than 35% of your diet.
Fill up on fibre
Fibre is known for its digestive benefits, but can also protect your heart too, with the ability to reduce cholesterol levels.
Despite all these benefits, it’s thought that most people in the UK don’t get their recommended 30g of fibre a day.
You can add more fibre into your diet by opting for a higher-fibre breakfast cereal like shredded wheat, bran flakes or porridge oats.
You could also try switching your white bread to wholemeal or granary bread and opting for wholewheat pasta and rice.
Getting your 5-a-day is also important for increasing your soluble fibre (the kind that’s great for lowering cholesterol), so try to include vegetables with every meal, snack on fresh fruit and introduce more beans and lentils into your diet.
Turn off the fryer
It’s not just the foods we eat, it’s how we cook it that matters as well.
When you fry your foods in oil, they lose water and absorb fat, therefore increasing the calorie and fat content.
Studies have shown that the more often people eat fried foods, the higher their risk for coronary heart disease.
Instead of frying, try grilling, baking, poaching or steaming to reduce the amount of fat and excess calories you’re adding into your diet.
Eat more fish
As we’ve covered, swapping saturated fats with unsaturated fats is a great way to protect your heart.
One of the best ways to do that is by swapping your regular meat with fish twice a week - and we’re not talking about a deep-fried battered cod from your local chip shop!
We’re talking about oily fish like trout, kippers, herring, sardines, salmon and mackerel.
That’s because oily fish is rich in omega-3, a polyunsaturated fatty acid that may be able to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood), the chance of abnormal heart rhythm and the likelihood of a heart attack.
If you don’t eat fish, we stock a range of omega-3 supplements that may be beneficial for you.
Switch out the salt
Eating too much salt can cause fluid retention, which in turn can lead to high blood pressure and increase your chances of developing coronary heart disease.
It’s recommended that we should eat no more than 6g of salt a day - that’s just one teaspoon - but unfortunately, around 75% of the salt we eat is already added to the foods we buy.
To reduce your salt intake, try avoiding processed foods as much as you can and start cooking from scratch instead, opting for other seasonings like herbs, spices, pepper and garlic to add flavour to your meals.
Cut down on salty snacks, too, like crisps, salted nuts, biscuits and olives.
Kitchen staples can also be high in salt, particularly salted butter, stock cubes and bottled sauces, so always look out for low-salt versions of your favourite essentials.
Making heart-healthy choices when it comes to your diet doesn’t mean you have to cut out all the fun in your food.
Eat treats in moderation and switch out salty or fatty ingredients with tasty, healthy alternatives when you’re cooking.
Even a small change can make a big difference to your health, and your heart will thank you for it.
For more information on preventing coronary heart disease, visit the NHS website.