By Shaista Tariq

Healthy Foods, Healthy Heart
Dietary factors play a key role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Healthy eating habits lower one’s risk for heart disease and stroke. By understanding which foods and methods of cooking are healthiest for your heart, one may be able take greater control over quality of life. Certain foods have shown to improve heart-health

Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can strengthen and protect the heart. They are among the best sources of fiber, which lowers cholesterol and helps reduce low-grade inflammation in our bodies that contributes to heart disease. They are low in saturated fats (which are mostly from animal sources), and trans-fats (those found in many processed baked goods. Some of the healthiest vegetables: Asparagus, bell-peppers, carrots, tomatoes , broccoli, green leafy vegetables, garlic, onions, potatoes, squash.


Eating salmon regularly has numerous benefits, including improved heart health. Salmon is an oily fish and a rich source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. It is naturally high in Omega -3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help in reducing inflammation, keep your blood flowing easily, and prevent a build-up of artery-clogging plaques in your heart.


Experts say there are several possible explanations for how apples aid the heart. Apples are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber, which blocks cholesterol absorption in the gut and encourages the body to use, rather than store, the waxy stuff. Apple peels are also packed with polyphenols — antioxidants that prevent cellular damage from free radicals.


Packed with monosaturated fat, avocado helps lower LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol in the body. They are naturally free of sodium, trans-fats and cholesterol.

Healthy Foods, Healthy Heart


Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries—whatever berry you like best—are full of anti-inflammatory nutrients, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.


Garlic is  rich in antioxidants. In your body, harmful particles called free radicals build up as you age, and may contribute to heart disease. Garlic is most often mentioned as an herb for preventing heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  Some studies do suggest that garlic may help prevent heart disease. It may slow down atherosclerosis and lower blood pressure a little, between 5% and 8%.


It is rich in fiber and can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Studies have confirmed that the soluble fiber in oats inhibits the absorption of cholesterol and lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol blood levels. Foods that contain a lot of soluble fiber help bind cholesterol and keep it from being absorbed in the gut.

Healthy Foods, Healthy Heart

Flaxseed oil

It has both soluble and insoluble fiber. This fiber is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects of flax. Flaxseed also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Sprinkle flaxseed over a bowl of whole-grain cereal, this can go a long way for your heart.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil lowers bad LDL cholesterol and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Olives contain monounsaturated fat, which is healthier. Olives are fruits and their oil also contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which, research suggests, help reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Limit yourself to no more than 2 to 3 teaspoons (10 to 15 mL) of oil or 24 to 30 medium olives daily. Olives and olive oil are meant to replace other fats in your diet, not be added to them. Look for extra-virgin or virgin varieties, which are the least processed.


They contain plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads, or snack on them during the day.


They contain plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats as well as phytosterols. Walnuts add flavourful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.
Getting regular exercise, not smoking, and controlling stress are just a few things health experts recommend, along with eating a variety of nutritious, heart-healthy foods that make up a healthy diet.


About the author:

Shaista Tariq is an M.Sc., B.Sc. in Applied Science in Nutrition and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.


 Images: 123RF