7 Foods You Should Eat For A Healthy Heart, According To A Dietician

They'll also do wonders for your waistline.


Chandré Davids |

It’s no secret that the foods we eat play a huge role in our health. Food can literally help you… or be your biggest downfall. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 80 per cent of heart disease and stroke cases can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. By eating well and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, you can live a long and heart-disease-free life.

So, when it comes to making good nutritional choices, it’s advised that we cut down on saturated fats, sodium and refined carbs. “The focus should rather be on healthy, balanced meals eaten regularly, as well as aiming to reduce sodium intake and including exercise. A healthy lifestyle will give you the beneficial effects of protection from cardiovascular disease,” says registered dietician Maxine Botha. Focus on these foods for maximum benefits…

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1. Fatty Fish

“Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids,” says Botha. Research suggests that omega-3s can come with serious health benefits for your heart, brain, lungs and circulation. Eating three portions of fatty fish a week can help to reduce your blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol. Not into fish? A fish oil supplement has the same benefits as the real thing.

2. Berries

Berries are high in antioxidants, which help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation (which contribute to the development of heart disease).  They’re also high in vitamin C, folate, potassium and fibre, meaning they’re great for the rest of your body too.

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3. Avocados

“Avos fall in the healthy fat group since they’re rich in monounsaturated fats, leading to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease,” says Botha. Regular consumption of avos is linked to lowered bad cholesterol – a cause of heart disease. They’re high in potassium, an electrolyte that’s essential for heart contractions and the regulation of blood pressure.

4. Tomatoes

Tomatoes and other red fruit and veg have a plant pigment called lycopene. This little superhero has antioxidant properties, which combat the reactive biochemical compounds formed during metabolism. Antioxidants help to reduce damage and inflammation caused by these free radicals.

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5. Leafy Greens

Be sure to stock up your spinach, kale, and cabbage on your next grocery trip. Leafy greens are packed with “vitamins, minerals and antioxidants especially vitamin K which promotes blood clotting and helps protect your arteries”, explains Botha. And because they are high in fibre, they help to lower blood pressure and promote the functioning of your vascular system.

6. High-Fibre Grains

Adding whole wheat grains to your daily meals will help lower bad cholesterol and decrease your chance of heart disease and stroke. Sources of whole-grains include wholewheat bread, oats, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa.

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7. Edamame

Edamame is the immature soybean often found in East Asian cuisine. Soy products are rich in soy isoflavones, a type of flavonoid that can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Isoflavones are also found in chickpeas and other legumes. “Consuming soy protein instead of animal protein leads to lower levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. This helps to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Edamame is also rich in fibre, protein and antioxidants,” says Botha.

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