Here's a scary statistic: nine out of 10 adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Some of these risks factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and family history. A lack of exercise, stress, smoking, and an unhealthy diet can also contribute to heart disease.
The good news? There are foods that can keep our hearts healthy. Check them out below.
Whole grains, specifically barley and oats, contain a special type of fibre called beta-glucan. This type of fibre has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. The beneficial amount is 3 grams of beta-glucan fibre, which is found in 1 cup of cooked barley or 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal. Fibre also helps us feel fuller for longer, and this can help with our weight, too.
Research shows that eating about 1 serving of nuts five times or more per week can also lower bad cholesterol. All nuts have high proportions of health fats—these are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—and it's these fats which help to reduce our cholesterol levels. Nuts are filled with nutrition like protein, vitamin E, selenium, folate and calcium, but they do pack in the calories, so keep in mind that a portion size is about 1/4 cup.
Tofu contains soy protein which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. It's also a great vegetarian protein. Anywhere between 20-25 grams of soy protein can have this beneficial effect.
Fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, arctic char, macerel and sardines have heart-healthy omega-3 fats. These omega-3 fats can reduce inflammation and blood clotting. You should aim to eat fish at least twice a week and a serving should be 75 g of cooked fish (about the size and thickness of your palm).
Fruits & Vegetables
You can't go wrong with eating more fruit and veggies—they are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which protect against heart disease and other conditions like high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. As a general rule, try to have 1-2 servings of fruit or veggies at every meal and snack.