Heart Healthy Options

Given that heart disease is a major cause of death for women, it makes sense to help yourself as much as you can.


Twice as many women die each year from coronary heart disease than from cancer, but many women still don’t recognise the danger.

Despite 28,000 women dying of a heart attack in the UK each year, a study has shown that women had a fifty per cent higher chance than men of receiving the wrong initial diagnosis following a heart attack.

Given those statistics it makes sense to do everything you can to keep[ your heart healthy and one way is through your diet.

Heart healthy option: Fresh herbs

When you add these to foods instead of salt and fat, you’re making a heart-healthy choice. They add flavour without any artificial additives so spices and other herbs are delicious ways to eat heart-smart.

Heart healthy option: Black beans

Mild, tender black beans are packed with heart-healthy nutrients. Folate, antioxidants, and magnesium can help lower blood pressure.

Their fibre helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels so add them to soups and salads for a health boost. If the beans are tinned, give them a good rinse first as they can sometimes have salt added.

Heart healthy option: Wine and resveratrol

If you drink alcohol, a little red wine may be a heart-healthy choice. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine, may protect artery walls.

Alcohol can also boost HDL, the good cholesterol but keep it in moderation as too much hurts the heart.

For women that means no more than one drink a day.

Heart healthy options: Oily fish

These are top foods for heart health because they are rich in omega-3s. These are healthy fats that may lessen the risk of heart rhythm disorders and lower blood pressure. They may also lower triglycerides and curb inflammation. 

Recommendation is two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week so try mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies. If you are using tinned tuna choose the one
packed in water, not oil, to keep it heart-healthy.

Heart healthy options: Olive oil

This oil is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants that can help protect your blood vessels. When olive oil replaces saturated fat (like butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels.

There are lots of oils out there, but for heart health – and flavour – look for cold-pressed and use it within 6 months.

Heart healthy options: Nuts

A small handful of walnuts a day may lower your cholesterol. It may also protect against inflammation in your heart’s arteries. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, healthy fats called monounsaturated fats, plant sterols, and fiber.

Also good are almonds and they go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, and desserts. They have plant sterols, fibre, and heart-healthy fats.

Almonds may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol so have a small handful a day.
Taste Tip: Toast them to boost their creamy, mild flavour.
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Heart healthy options: Edamame

You may know them better as soybeans and they are now widely available in ready to eat salads.

Soy protein can help lower cholesterol levels. A cup of edamame also has 8 grams of heart-healthy fibre. To get that much from whole wheat bread, you’d need to eat about four slices.

Heart healthy options: Tofu

Eat tofu and you’ll get a great form of vegetarian soy protein with heart-healthy minerals, fibre, and polyunsaturated fats. It can take on the taste of the spices or sauces you use to cook it.

Because tofu essentially has no flavour try chopping firm tofu, marinate it in soy other sauce then grill or stir-fry. Add tofu to soups for protein with little added fat.

Heart healthy options: Sweet potatoes

Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes as they have a low glycaemic index and so won’t cause a quick spike in blood sugar.

They also have fibre, vitamin A, and lycopene and can be combined with other vegetables for healthy mash.

Heart healthy options: Oranges

These have the cholesterol-fighting fibre pectin as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. In one study, 2 cups of juice a day boosted blood vessel health and also lowered blood pressure in men.

Best to have the whole fruit, rather than juice and a medium orange has about 62 calories and 3 grams of fibre.

Heart healthy options: Swiss chard

This dark green, leafy vegetable is rich in potassium and magnesium: minerals that help control blood pressure.

Swiss chard also has heart-healthy fibre, vitamin A, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

Heart healthy options: Barley

Hulled or “whole grain” barley is the most nutritious so try this nutty whole grain in place of rice. You can also simmer barley into soups and stews.

The fibre in barley can help lower cholesterol levels and may lower blood sugar levels too.

Pearl barley is quick, but a lot of the heart-healthy fibre has been removed.

Heart healthy options: Oatmeal

A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours, fights snack attacks, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable over time — making it useful for people with diabetes, too.

The fibre in oats can help your heart by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). Best results come from using steel cut or slow cooked oats.

Heart healthy options: Flaxseed

This shiny, honey-coloured seed has three things that are good for your heart: fibre, phytochemicals called lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Best to have ground flaxseed for the best nutrition. Add it to cereal, baked goods, yogurt, or mustard on a sandwich.

Heart healthy options: Low-fat yoghurt

When you think of dairy foods, you probably think, “Good for my bones!” These foods can help control high blood pressure, too.

Yoghurt is high in calcium and potassium but to really boost the calcium and minimise the fat, choose low-fat varieties.

Heart healthy options: Foods Fortified with plant sterols

Some margarines, soy milks, almond milks, and orange juices have cholesterol-fighting sterols and stanols added. These plant extracts block your gut from soaking up cholesterol.

They can lower LDL levels by 10% without disturbing the good cholesterol.

Heart healthy options: Cherries

Sweet cherries, sour cherries, dried cherries, and cherry juice — they’re all good. All are packed with an antioxidants called anthocyanins which are believed to help protect blood vessels.

Heart healthy options: Blueberries

Blueberries are simply brilliant when it comes to nutrition. They’ve got anthocyanins, those blood vessel-helping antioxidants.

Blueberries also have fibre and more than a handful of other great nutrients. Add fresh or dried blueberries to cereal, pancakes, or yogurt.

Helpful information:

Progesterone is a great protector of the heart so if you feel your hormones are out of balance then supplementing to deal with any oestrogen dominance would be a great way to start boosting your heart health.

All these dietary options listed are simple so try and add some to your every day diet to boost your heart health.