Hi! I’m Ruby, a nutritionist at WW and for this week’s blog I’ll be talking about heart health.
September 29th is World Heart Day, which is a global campaign aiming to raise awareness of heart health.
This World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation is asking us to make a promise - for my heart, for your heart, for all our hearts. What will your promise be?
Heart disease – what you need to know
Did you know that heart disease is the world’s number one killer? 26% of deaths a year in the UK are due to heart disease.
The lifestyle choices we make every day, including our diet and exercise regime, play key roles in keeping our hearts healthy and can impact our risk of developing heart disease.
Being overweight or obese comes with potential risk factors that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
However, the good news is these risks are reversible, and can be reduced with the help of a healthy diet plan and a commitment to healthy living.
Heart healthy foods
Which food is good for the heart? What can you eat to your heart's content? Kickstart a heart healthy diet with this heart healthy foods list – plus ways to include them in your diet.
ZeroPoint™ fruit & veg
Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and we should all be aiming for at least five varied 80g portions a day. You can do this by adding chopped fruit to your breakfast, veg to pasta and curry sauces or a side salad to your lunch and dinner.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and watercress are a great source of vitamin K, which helps to protect arteries and aids healthy blood clotting.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries are all rich in antioxidants and including them in your diet can reduce several risk factors for heart disease. Get your fix with our delicious and super easy French berry overnight oats.
We should be eating at least two portions of fish a week, including one oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna. Oily fish are a rich source of Omega-3 which helps to prevent heart disease, and unsmoked versions are 0 SmartPoints (yay!). To protect the heart healthy oil content in the fish, poaching or baking are the best ways to cook it.
Wholegrains, beans & pulses
These fibre rich foods help to keep cholesterol at a healthy level, which in turn reduces the likelihood of developing heart disease. Fibre also helps with weight loss as it keeps us feeling fuller for longer. We should be aiming to include at least 30g of fibre in our diet each day.
How to ensure you get your fibre fix? Include wholegrains in your main meals, such as brown rice, oats and other cereals, rye, whole wheats and quinoa. Many of these are around 1 SmartPoint per 10 grams, so an average 60g serving of rice or pasta is 6 SmartPoints and a 40g portion of oats or quinoa is 4 SmartPoints.
Add beans and pulses to salads, soups and stews, such as kidney beans, edamame beans, chickpeas and lentils. These are all ZeroPoint foods too! Try our lentil & vegetable soup or our spiced vegetable stew.
RELATED: 12 things to do with canned beans
Avocado, nuts & seeds
Avocados, walnuts, almonds, pecans, chia seeds, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds are all rich sources of unsaturated fats. Making sure we include the right types of fat in our diet can help manage weight and can lower the risk of developing heart disease.
These should be eaten in moderate amounts as they have a high calorific value. You can have half an avocado for 5 SmartPoints, 8 almonds for 3 SmartPoints and 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds for 2 SmartPoints.
RELATED: The skinny on nuts and seeds
Reduce sugar, salt and bad fats
How to lose weight fast and reduce your risk of heart disease? In addition to consuming foods good for the heart, cutting down on or being more mindful of our intake of certain nutrients, will also improve our heart health. Here’s what to avoid or cut down on:
Saturated and trans-fat
Eating a lot of saturated and trans-fats can push up cholesterol levels, which can lead to an increased risk of heart problems, such as heart disease. Foods high in saturated fat or trans-fat include sausages, full fat dairy products, visible white fat in & on meat, butter, ghee and processed foods such as pastries/pies, cakes and biscuits.
The current recommendations are that women should have no more than 24g and men 31g of saturated fat each day, which can be easy to reach in just one or 2 meals.
Here are my top tips for staying within the limits:
- Add lean meats like chicken into your lunch and dinner recipes, or use meat alternatives (like Quorn).
- Pick low fat dairy products over full fat varieties, such as skimmed milk, reduced-fat cheese.
- When it comes to cooking methods, bake, grill or steam where you can, or if you are cooking with fat use an unsaturated fat option such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil.
- Portion-control foods high in saturated fat. Check out our Portion Controlled Grill which makes preparing healthy food quick and easy.
- Remember that all fats and oils are high in calories so it’s wise to use small amounts.
Sugar isn't so sweet
Did you know that the recommended intake of sugar is no more than 30g each day. Too much added sugar can lead to weight gain, which in turn will increase the risk factors of heart disease.
You can reduce your sugar intake by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks like fizzy drinks, fruit juices, sweets and ready meals – and replacing them with sugar-free options instead.
Shake salt out of your diet
Eating too much salt causes high blood pressure, which increases our risk of heart disease. Salt is hidden in lots of foods, but ready meals and processed foods are the worst offenders.
Try to cut down on adding salt when cooking and use herbs and spices for seasoning instead. Following current government recommendations, which state that adults shouldn’t exceed 6g of salt per day.