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Heart Healthy Foods

Healthy Heart

This September, Irish Heart Month will focus on women's heart health. This annul campaign, organised by The Irish Heart Foundation, aims to inform and educate people about how to keep their heart healthy.

The organisations mission is to lead in improving the cardiovascular health of people living in Ireland so they do not experience disability or die from preventable heart, stroke and other blood vessel diseases.

The heart is an unusual organ, it does so much for us but many people have little understanding about how our diets affects it. Most people know that for a healthy heart you need to have a balanced diet, but what most people don't know is that there are a lot of heart healthy foods out there.

These heart healthy foods are commonly referred to as superfoods and they come in all sorts of different varieties including: fruit, vegetables, dairy foods, starchy foods and fish. Let’s take a look at our top 5 picks for the best heart healthy super foods. 

Salmon

Salmon and other fatty fishes like sardines and mackerel are popular choices for people looking for heart healthy foods. This is because they contain ample amounts of omega 3 fatty acids.

Studies of these fatty acids have shown that they have the potential to lower the risk of arrhythmia and prevent build-up in a person’s arteries. Omega 3 fatty acids are popular for the health benefits they offer and even the American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week.

Berries and Citrus Fruits

Berries like strawberries and blueberries as well as citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are very good heart healthy foods (plus they’re one of your five a day). Blueberries and strawberries contain flavonoids that help decrease your blood pressure and they also help dilate your blood vessels.

Citrus fruits on the other hand contain high amounts of vitamin C which can help lower your risk of heart disease. Orange and grapefruit in particular also contain flavonoids that reduce clotting in the blood.      

Red Grapes

Red grapes are rich in antioxidants and fibre and studies have shown that they also lower blood pressure, reduce damage to the heart muscles and reduce inflammation. They have also shown the ability to reduce cholesterol and improve blood vessel functions.

You might also be wondering if the same is true for that well known drink that red grapes can make (be honest – you’re wondering). And yes, red wine is also good for the heart (in moderation of course), because of its polyphenol content which helps to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Nuts  

Nuts (unsalted of course) are a popular choice for people who are trying to look after their heart, they contain vitamin E which helps lower bad cholesterol and many types of nut also contain a high amount of fibre. Some nuts, like walnuts, also contain high amounts of omega 3.

The other good thing about nuts is that there is a wide variety available, many of which are quite good for the heart. Nuts like almonds, pistachios, macadamias, peanuts and walnuts are all good for the heart and they are a good substitute for the more unhealthy crisps or chocolate bars.

Dark Chocolate

Yes you read that correctly, dark chocolate can be good for your heart! Several studies have shown that dark chocolate might benefit your heart. One such study found that daily dark chocolate consumption could possibly reduce the risk of nonfatal heart attacks in people who are at a high risk from them.

It’s important to note that these study findings only applied to dark chocolate that was at least 60% cocoa. Unfortunately milk chocolate and other variants where not found to have the same positive effects when it comes to protecting your heart.

If you wish to learn more, the Irish Heart Foundation are offering a FREE 24 page magazine which covers topics such as eating for a healthy heart, menopause and diabetes. It includes real life stories, an exclusive recipe from celebrity chef Catheirne Fulvio and interviews with experts such as medical director & consultant cardiologist Dr. Angie Brown and dietitian Sinéad Shanley.

To download the organisations free magazine, just visit http://www.irishheart.ie/media/pub/heartmonth2015/red_alert_magazine_final__print_ready.pdf.