Understanding what types of heart-healthy foods to incorporate into your diet can be a confusing process. There are many articles online stating that certain foods or diet fads can benefit you; but who’s to know what is real and what isn’t? Fortunately for us, our Registered Dietitian, Marsha Rosen, has curated a list of heart-healthy foods that are highly beneficial for your diet.

Your list of foods for a balanced diet should include a variety of choices from all food groups.

Here are some excellent suggestions to begin with and build on.

10 Heart-Healthy Foods

Salmon – Salmon and other fatty fish like mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout and arctic char; are extremely good for heart health as they contain plenty of omega-3 fats, which can help to lower the risk of heart disease. It’s recommended that you aim to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week.

There are three types of omega-3 fats:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

All three types of omega-3 fats are important to have in your diet.

Other foods that contain omega-3 fats include:

  • Eggs
  • Margarine enriched with the omega-3 fat DHA – made with fish oil
  • Yoghurt – fortified with Omega-3
  • Soy beverage – Omega-3 fortified
  • Soybeans – edamame

Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a high in soluble fibre, which can help to lower cholesterol. It’s recommended that you avoid eating instant oatmeal, as it often will contain sugar, and instead opting for traditional old-fashioned oats.

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.

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.

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.

Nuts – Any nuts that you consume are good for your heart fibre (As long as they’re not salted or contain added oils or fats), and also contain vitamin E, which helps to lower bad cholesterol.

Legumes – Legumes such as dried beans, peas and lentils, are an excellent source of protein without a lot of added fat.

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.

Flax seeds – Flax seeds as well as chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre content.

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.

And finally:

When following these healthy food options, remember that those that are higher in fat – nuts, seeds, fatty fish, oils, even though they are heart-healthy fats, can work against you. How can that be?? If your portions of these foods are too large it can lead to unwanted weight gain which again will contribute to a less healthy you. Follow Canada’s Food Guide for suggested serving sizes.

According to Northwestern Medicine, keeping your heart healthy during the fall/winter is important. They have put together tips on how you can manage your heart-healthy during the colder months. Here’s how:

  • Dress for the weather. Wear layers and especially wear hats, gloves and heavy socks.
  • Come inside often. Give yourself breaks to warm up if you’re spending time outside in the cold.
  • Avoid excess alcohol. Alcohol can make you feel warmer than you really are and therefore can be particularly dangerous when you’re outside in the cold.
  1. Limit your intake of salt and caffeine. (No more than the equivalent of four regular cups of coffee per day.)
  2. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
  3. Have regular check-ups with your physician. Early detection is the key to a successful solution.
  4. Keep a positive attitude and wear a smile… it takes only 22 muscles to smile, but 37 to frown.
  5. Make time for leisure activities such as reading, hobbies, sports, TV etc.
  6. Invest in CPR and AED education and training, and encourage your family and friends to do the same

Stress is an inevitable part of our every day lives – from trying to manage work, to trying to find time for family and yourself. It’s important to recognize and manage it because stress can significantly raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. It could lead to the detriment of your mental health such as depression and anxiety if stress is overlooked over an extended period of time.

Stress first develops in the mind but has huge repercussions on your body. Stress can take a toll on your physical well being, damage your heart health, and over time can increase the risk of coronary artery disease.

Sometimes it’s not as simple as changing a job you dislike, change your work schedule, or avoid difficult people and situations. Here is our advice on how to better manage stress:

Get enough sleep

Getting adequate sleep is vital for mental and physical health. Fall short on rest can take a serious toll on your energy levels throughout the day, productivity, emotional balance, and your weight.

Avoid sleeping in on weekends. The more your sleep schedule alternates, the more likely you will experience jetlag-like symptoms. To make up for those late nights, opt for a nap during the day rather than sleep in to prevent your natural sleep-wake rhythm from being thrown off.

Get off your phone! Plenty of us are guilty of mindless browsing on our phones before bed. Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone is needed to help regulate sleep and wake cycles. The light emitted from all the screens of electronics suppresses melatonin production. Try listening to music or read a book instead.

Follow smart eating habits

Cut down on the alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. These disrupt your ability to get good rest and interferes with your sleep cycle when you are out of it, especially if you have any of them closer to your bedtime.

Avoid eating large meals late at night. Try scheduling your dinners earlier if you’re planning on having a large meal. Your digestive system requires a time and energy to digest food which may be pulling you back from your body on concentrating to sleep.

Exercise

Exercise during the day for optimal results. Regular exercise allows you to sleep better at night and energizes you throughout the day. Exercise speeds up your metabolism and stimulates hormones like cortisol. Morning or afternoon does not make a big difference but working out too close to bed can make sleep afterwards difficult.

It can take several months of consistent physical activity before you can get the full sleep-promoting benefits. Just walking at least 10 minutes a day is enough to improve sleep quality. If you’re not a fan of intense exercise, yoga and stretching are great alternatives to help regulate your sleep.

Have any advice on how to get the best sleep you’d like to share? Please comment down below!