Heart-healthy foods to work into your diet

Sunday February 17 2019

Fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice.

Fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice. COURTESY PHOTO 

By BEATRICE NAKIBUUKA

Good heart health starts with what you eat. Generally, fish, chicken, legumes, vegetables and fruits are said to be heart healthy foods and their regular intake can lower the risk of heart diseases.

Fruits and vegetables
A heart-healthy diet optimises plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruits that are high in dietary fibre, complex carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Dr Paul Kasenene, a nutritionist at Wellcare Health Clinic, says you can swap your sugar craving with fruits such as mangoes, grapes, berries and bananas. Regularly eating them may also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, some fruits, especially berries are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

High-fibre foods
A daily intake of high dietary fibre foods lowers the risk for heart disease. Many plant foods contain fibre. Joshua Ssozi, a nutritionist at Makerere University Department of Food and Health Sciences, says, “Legumes are rich in minerals and fibre without the saturated fat found in some animal proteins. Incorporating legumes such as beans into your diet therefore improves your heart health and may help improve your blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.”

Nuts and seeds
Among their benefits, nuts can reduce your risk for heart disease. Despite being high in calories, nuts do not contribute to weight gain when you eat them in moderation. An ounce or two of raw almonds or other nuts and seeds can provide those benefits.

Potassium rich foods
Sufficient amounts of potassium can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Dr Kasenene remarks that okra is a good source of both vitamins and minerals such as potassium, which is an essential aspect of human health. It acts as a vasodilator by reducing blood pressure and optimising the circulatory system.
The potassium relaxes blood vessels and arteries, which reduces blood pressure and lessens the strain on the heart. Potassium-rich foods include avocado, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Green tea
A regular intake of green tea, according to Dr Kasenene, provides antioxidants, especially one called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGcG which can help prevent atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries thereby improving heart health.
He adds that you should eat foods high in omega 3 fats which help reduce clots, improve heart health and even help with weight loss. Generally, a heart-healthy diet should be low in refined grains, added sugars, trans fats, sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as processed meats.

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