As a clinical dietician, I’m thrilled to guide you through a heart-healthy adventure that’s both tasty and nourishing. It’s not just about nutrition; it’s all about taking care of your heart and your overall well-being. So, let’s dive into some top tips and delicious recipes that will not only make your taste buds happy but also keep your heart in tip-top shape. Grab your apron, and let’s get cooking on this heart-loving journey together!
Promoting heart health through a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle is crucial in preventing and managing cardiovascular disease. In this article we outline eight tips for maintaining a heart-healthy diet. Incorporating these health recommendations as part of your daily routine will lead to long-term benefits to your heart and overall well-being.
1. Mindful portion control
Remember, how much you eat matters as much as what you are eating. You can implement strategies to manage portion sizes such as using smaller plates or bowls to help control your portions. Increase your consumption of low-calorie, high volume and nutrient-packed foods like fruits and vegetables. Cut down on high-calorie, high-sodium foods such as refined and processed items, including fast food.
2. Consume more vegetables and fruits
These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, making them excellent choices for heart health. They may also contain compounds that support cardiovascular well-being. Incorporate them into your diet with ease by keeping pre-cut vegetables handy in your refrigerator for convenient snacking. Also display fruits in a visible location in your kitchen to encourage regular consumption.
3. Opt for wholegrains
Whole grains offer fibre and essential nutrients that contribute to regulating blood pressure and heart health. Swap refined grains for whole grains by choosing 100 per cent whole-wheat bread or other whole-grain bread options. Opt for high-fibre cereals with 5 grams or more of fibre per serving. Incorporate whole grains like brown rice, barley, buckwheat, whole-grain pasta, and oatmeal into your meals.
4. Limit unhealthy fats
Reducing saturated and trans fats is crucial for lowering cholesterol levels and minimising the risk of coronary artery disease. Trim fat from meat or choose lean meat cuts. Reduce the use of butter, margarine, and shortening in cooking and serving. Choose healthier fat sources such as olive oil, canola oil, vegetable and nut oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
5. Select lean protein sources
Opt for lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs as primary sources of protein. Opt for leaner options like skinless chicken breasts and skim milk. Some fish varieties, flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Consider legumes like beans, peas, and lentils as cholesterol-free, low-fat alternatives to meat.
6. Limit sodium intake
Excessive salt consumption can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Aim for no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day (equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt) for healthy adults. Be cautious of the sodium content in canned or processed foods, such as soups, baked goods, and frozen dinners. Opt for fresh foods and homemade soups and stews to control salt intake. Consider reduced-sodium versions of condiments.
7. Indulge occasionally
While maintaining a healthy diet is essential, it’s also okay to enjoy occasional treats. The key is to prioritise nutritious foods most of the time.
8. Regular exercise
Strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or a combination of both) per week. Consistent physical activity helps manage weight, prevent weight regain, and enhance physical and cardiovascular fitness.
Recipes for healthy, delicious eating
Protect your heart while enjoying a delicious meal with these recipes
Grilled salmon with lemon and herbs
4 salmon fillets (6 oz each)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges for garnish
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
Place the salmon fillets in a shallow dish and pour the lemon herb marinade over them. Make sure the salmon is well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld.
Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
Remove the salmon from the marinade and place it on the grill. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
Serve the grilled salmon with lemon wedges and a side of steamed vegetables or a fresh salad.
Mediterranean chickpea salad
For the salad
2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned or cooked from dry)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional for added flavour)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped (optional)
For the dressing
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large salad bowl, combine the cooked chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese (if using), parsley, and mint (if using).
In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.
Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients in the large bowl.
Gently toss the salad to ensure all the ingredients are coated with the dressing.
Let the salad sit in the refrigerator for at least 15-30 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to meld.
Serve the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad as a refreshing and heart-healthy side dish or as a light meal on its own.