In the last blog I set out the biggest threats to heart health. These included refined flour, sugar and trans fats. This time, I’ll provide guidance on optimal foods & lifestyle habits that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Let’s start with lifestyle…
1. Stop smoking. Stop. Just stop. Smoking is perhaps the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Smokers have approximately 70% greater risk of death from CVD than nonsmokers. It’s a killer. Don’t quit quitting.
2. Move. A sedentary lifestyle is another significant risk factor for developing CVD as well as diabetes and obesity. Incorporating regular exercise into your life will help you reduce symptoms of hypertension (high blood pressure), it can increase “good” HDL cholesterol and of course help obtain and maintain a healthy body weight. If you have CVD check with your doctor on the best way to incorporate exercise into your daily life.
3. Stay mellow. Stress is another enemy of a healthy heart. Stress hormones constrict blood vessels and increase the heart rate. Living a stressful lifestyle day after day can take its toll on your heart. Try to avoid stressful situations as much as possible and undertake stress-busting techniques:
– walking the dog
– yoga class
– even chatting with friends and sharing your source of stress can be helpful
What to Eat….
We know that CVD is intrinsically linked to inflammation (see http://nutritionsavvy.ca/putting-out-the-fire) therefore consuming an anti-inflammatory diet is your absolute best bet in reducing your chances of developing CVD or slowing its progression. Some quick tips on other items to have in your cabinet:
1. Nuts. In particular almonds, walnuts, cashews and Brazil nuts have fantastic fatty-acid profiles. Include a small handful (about ¼ cup) into your daily diet.
2. An Apple a Day (and an orange, a pear or blueberries). These fruits are loaded with soluble fibre which helps effectively lower cholesterol levels. Keep a good selection of fresh fruit in close reach for those snacking occasions. Other sources of soluble fibre include lentils, oat meal, beans, flaxseeds and carrots.
3. Plant Protein. Try substituting your steak or burger for plant protein a couple of times a week (or more). This will help lower your levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that at high levels can increase your risk of CVD. Black bean burgers, tofu stir fries, and edamame or spiced chick peas (recipe below) for snacks are all great ways to increase plant protein into your diet.
4. Green tea. Green tea is loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds called catechins, a type of anti-oxidant. Drinking a few cups a day can also help lower cholesterol levels. There are many kinds of green tea on the market with added flavours like camomile, lemon, and Earl Grey. Find your favourite and start steeping.
1- 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed (or 2 cups dry chickpeas, pre-soaked and boiled)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (or paprika)
Salt & Pepper
Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 450°F.
Blot chickpeas dry and toss in a bowl with oil, Worcestershire sauce, spices, salt & pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring once or twice, until browned and crunchy, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.
Tips & Notes
- Cover and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.