There is a reason why your mom wanted you to eat your vegetables. It’s a well-known fact that a diet rich in vegetables can benefit your health in many ways, including your heart.

For this reason, it’s important to have a diet that is full of fruits and vegetables.  Which vegetables and fruits are the most heart healthy though? And what time of the year are they available? We’ve come up with a list to break this down.

Below are some of the best fruits and vegetables that you can have for a heart-healthy diet, as well as when they’re in season.

Heart Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

Berries

Berries such as strawberries and blueberries are believed to carry antioxidants that help to decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. This is attributed to the benefit of compounds known as anthocyanins, and flavonoids.

When they’re available: 

  • Strawberries: May, June, July, August, September, and October
  • Blueberries: July, August, and September
  • Cranberries:  September,  October and November
  • Raspberries: July, August, September, and  October

Potatoes

Although potatoes can be more challenging to your heart healthy dining, if you don’t deep fry them, they can be extremely good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium and high in fibre (if the skin is left on), which again, can help lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

When they’re available: year round

Tomatoes

Similar to potatoes, tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium. Plus they’re a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help to get rid of “bad ” cholesterol, keep blood vessels open and lower heart attack risk.

When they’re available: 

  • Greenhouse: year round
  • Field: July, August, September, and October

Broccoli, Spinach and Kale

When it comes to your heart health, you can’t go wrong with vegetables. Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach or kale can give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and can free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fibre and contain lots of vitamins and minerals.

When they’re available: 

  • Broccoli: June, July, August, September, and October
  • Spinach: May, June, July, August, September, and October
  • Kale: June, July, August, September, and October

Avocado

These soft, tasty fruits will provide your body and heart with plenty of healthy fats. They’re composed of monounsaturated fats, high in antioxidants, and also contain potassium to help lower heart disease factors.

When they’re available: (commercially) generally year round

Asparagus

One of the most important heart-healthy ingredients that are found in asparagus is vitamin B6. This vitamin can lower homocysteine, a form of amino acid that has been linked to heart disease.

When they’re available: May and June

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers contain folate, another nutrient that can reduce homocysteine.

When they’re available: 

  • Greenhouse: February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December
  • Field: July, August, September, and October

Carrots

Carrots are rich in carotenoids, which are powerful antioxidants that can combat free radicals that cause heart disease.

When they’re available: February, March, April, May,  July, August, September, October, November, and December

Garlic

Garlic contains phytochemicals that boost immunity and protect the heart against diseases.

When they’re available: February, July, August, September, October, November, and December

Onions

Onions are a rich source of sulphur-containing phytochemicals. These phytochemicals can reduce cholesterol levels, and therefore, prevent heart disease.

When they’re available: year round

If you’re interested in learning about other heart-healthy foods, check out our post on Ten Essential Foods For A Heart-Healthy Diet; And if you’d like to know when other fruits and vegetables are available, check out Foodland Ontario’s page.

Throughout March we have been working with Registered Dietitian, Marsha Rosen, to share heart-healthy dietary tips. This is a part of our effort to provide Canadians with resources that they can use to take better steps towards their nutritional health and to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.

To finish off Nutrition Month, we’d like to share some of the resources that we used for our dietary recommendations, which you can use to further your nutritional health for not only March but the rest of the year.

Nutritional Resources

Health Canada

If you’re looking for some tips and guides on what experts from dietitians in Canada are recommending, look no further than Health Canada’s website. They have a food and nutrition section that helps to guide you with developing healthy choices (with the Canada food guide), but also how you should judge food (with sections talking about food labelling and safety).

In addition to guiding you with an overall understanding of food, they also have recommendations on nutritional and healthy eating habits to incorporate into your diet.

Dietitians of Canada

If you’re looking to improve your diet and feel as though you’ll need some additional help, the Dietitians of Canada is a great resource. The site has options to help connect you with a dietitian or to attend one of their regularly scheduled meetups to talk about nutritional health. They also offer ways to assess your current diet (by tracking what you eat, or your BMI) as well as recipes and ways that you can help enhance your meal.

Eat Right Ontario

Eat Right Ontario provides similar information to the Dietitians of Canada web page, but we found that they had much more resources that specialized in educating Canadians on heart health. Their heart-healthy section is composed of a plethora of study based articles and recipes that you can use for a heart-healthy diet.

In addition to those resources, they offer articles and recipes for almost any other need, including recipes for Canadians who have diabetes; to recipes for children and seniors.

Marsha Rosen and The Mikey Network

Marsha has been a wonderful resource to The Mikey Network over the years with her advice and the great heart-healthy recipes that she has provided. Marsha provides group lectures, seminars and cooking demonstrations, and is a sought-after contributor to health-related publications.

If you have a nutrition question for our dietician, you can email Marsha here...

View all of the recipes that Marsha has helped to create for us here.  

If you have a nutritional resource that you would like to share, please message us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

One of the most common reasons for hypertension and the risk of heart disease among Canadians is due to a person’s diet. Simply, many of us are consuming far too much salt, fat and sugar that can affect our health, quality of life and overall longevity.

To combat this, researchers and heart-related organizations have developed a dietary plan called, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or what is known as the DASH diet. The diet consists of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and a lower level of salt.  Dietitians of Canada states that DASH can even be as effective as some medications in helping keep blood pressure levels in a normal range.

Why is a healthy blood pressure important?

High blood pressure and carrying excess weight on your body, causes the heart to work harder to pump nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the body. The arteries that deliver the blood become scarred and less elastic. Although these changes happen to everyone as they age, they happen more quickly in people with high blood pressure. As the arteries stiffen, the heart has to work even harder, causing the heart muscle to become thicker, weaker and less able to pump blood. When high blood pressure damages arteries, they are not able to deliver enough blood to organs for their proper functioning.

DASH

To help walk us through this diet, we’ve asked our Registered Dietitian, Marsha Rosen, to explain its components and what a normal day would be like on the DASH diet.

The DASH diet emphasizes making meal and snack choices from the following Food Groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Low Fat or No-Fat Dairy Foods
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Nuts, seeds and dry  legumes
  • Fats and oils

The DASH Eating Plan outlines what you would eat normally if you followed a 2000 calorie a day diet.

 

 

Food Group Number of
daily servings
Example of serving size
Grains 6-8 1 slice whole grain bread

½ cup cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta

*Choose whole grains like oats, millet, barley, bulgur and quinoa most often*

Vegetables 4-5 ½ cup any raw or cooked vegetable

1 cup raw leafy vegetable

½ cup low sodium or reduced sodium vegetable and tomato juice

Fruit 4-5 1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or juice
Low-fat milk products 2-3 1 cup skim or 1% milk

1 cup low-fat yogurt (2% milk fat or less)

1.5 oz low-fat cheese (19% milk fat or less)

Lean meat, poultry and fish 6 or less 1 oz cooked lean meat, skinless poultry or fish
1 egg
Nuts, seeds and legumes 4-5 times per week 1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts)

2 Tbsp peanut butter

2 Tbsp seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

½ cup cooked legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas)

Fats and oils 2-3 1 tsp non-hydrogenated, unsalted margarine

1 tsp oil (olive, canola, etc.)

1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing

Sweets and added sugars 5 or less per week 1 tbsp sugar, jelly or jam

½ cup sorbet

Minerals

In addition to focusing on these key food areas, the DASH eating plan encourages you to eat foods that are high in potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Potassium – Good sources of potassium include tomatoes, bananas, oranges, potatoes, nuts, lentils, beans, milk and fish.

Magnesium – Good sources of magnesium include spinach, whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, soy and lentils.

Calcium – High amounts are found in milk, yoghurt, canned fish with bones mashed in, leafy green vegetables, beans and tofu (manufactured using calcium salts).

And finally – all of this is a wonderful beginning to lifelong healthy eating habits – the one other key step is to introduce some regular exercise that is personally enjoyable and done regularly. Get some professional help if you need it to start you on an appropriate program.

 

If you’re like many Canadians, almost every meal that you have throughout your day has some form of protein. We as Canadians believe this to be a part of a normal diet, but in fact, most of us are getting far more protein than what we actually need (American Heart Association).

The belief that protein is essential at every meal, still resonates with many families, stemming from the great depression, when protein was unaffordable and wasn’t easy to come by. Today, it is much more affordable to buy meat, but we have still held onto that idea, which so many of us have characterized as a normalcy to our diet.

Why is it harmful to have too much protein?

Protein is an important part of any Canadians diet, but often the problem that many Canadians face is that the extra protein that we’re consuming comes from meats high in saturated fats, which can elevate cholesterol levels. The amount of meat that we consume also tends to be much more than what we should have on a daily basis, which tends to make us feel more full and usually prevents us from consuming other food groups like fruits and vegetables.

How much protein do you actually need?

The amount of protein that you should consume during a day depends on your age and weight, but the Dieticians of Canada recommend that if you’re eating meat for your protein, that you choose small portions of lean, well-trimmed cuts of meat. A small portion is about the size of a deck of cards (75 grams or 2 ½ oz).

Choosing the right kind and the amount of protein:

  • When choosing a protein, opt for low-fat options, such as lean meats, skim milk or other foods with high levels of protein. Legumes, for example, can pack about 16 grams of protein per cup and are a low-fat and inexpensive alternative to meat.
  • Choose main dishes that combine meat and vegetables together, such as low-fat soups, or a stir-fry that emphasizes veggies.
  • Watch portion size. Aim for 2- to 3-ounce servings.
  • If you’re eating a snack, look for healthier alternatives. Opt for a plate of raw veggies rather than items like cheese. Cheese has protein too, but it also has fats.
  • Fish and other seafood: Opt for fish that provides omega-3 fatty acids. 2-3 servings per week.
  • Nuts, seeds, beans and legumes: 5 servings per week. Example: Tbsp of peanut butter, or 2 Tbsp of nuts or seeds.
  • Poultry, meat and eggs: Lean and extra-lean; skin and visible fat removed. 8-9 servings per week. Example: 3 oz cooked meat or poultry.

 

During heart month we’ve discussed many ways that you can help attain a heart-healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. These are important areas of focus to every Canadian as heart disease is still one of the leading causes of premature death for both men and women in Canada. Although we have talked about ways that you can help to prevent heart disease from occurring, we haven’t discussed how to identify and react if you’re faced with a heart-related emergency. Below we have laid out common signs and symptoms of a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, and what you can do to help.

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Identifying signs and symptoms can vary for both men and women, so it’s especially important to listen to your body as the signs tend to be much less noticeable in women. If you experience any of the signs below call 9-1-1 immediately.

Signs of a Heart Attack

Men and Women

  • Chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back)
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-head

More Prevalent In Women

  • Indigestion type feeling, or band of tightness in the upper back region.
  • Dizzy, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath with exertion

What To Do If You Are, Or You See Someone Experiencing A Heart Attack

  1. Call 9-1-1
    • This is highly important as you want to get professional medical help to yourself or to the person you’re treating.
  2. Stop all activity
    • Sit or lie down in whatever position is most comfortable.
  3. Take nitroglycerin or Aspirin
    • If you have either of these items available to you, take them. If you have nitroglycerin, take your normal dosage. If you have Aspirin, chew and swallow a tablet. ***Important*** make sure that you or the person you’re treating are not allergic to either of these items before ingestion.
  4. Rest and wait
    • Wait and stay calm for help to come. If you’re by yourself and you know of someone close by who may be able to help you, try to call out to them for assistance.

Signs and Symptoms of a Cardiac Arrest

Signs of a cardiac arrest can happen much more rapidly, as cardiac arrest is defined as the heart stopping, and it’s no longer transferring blood to the rest of the body. It’s extremely important to get help for a cardiac arrest, as the inability to transfer blood to vital organs, can cause death within minutes.

Signs of a Cardiac Arrest

  1. Sudden collapse
  2. Unresponsive to touch and sounds
  3. Not breathing or they’re making gasping sounds.

What To Do If You See Someone Experiencing A Cardiac Arrest

  1. Call 9-1-1 immediately
  2. Yell or try to locate an AED 
    • If you have someone else with you, get them to look for and fetch an AED. AED’s are often available in public places, so if you can’t find one, try to locate an information desk and ask if there is one available.
  3. Start CPR
    • Begin chest compressions by pushing down hard and fast in the centre of the chest. If you become tired, try to sub in another bystander until help arrives.

Mikey Young at Heart App

To better prepare yourself in case of a heart-related emergency, we encourage you to sign up and download the Mikey Young at Heart app. Although the app is meant primarily for high school students, it can be used to educate anyone on how to perform CPR and how to properly use an AED.

Recently, a Mikey Young at Heart student was able to save a life which she credits to the training that she received in the app.