By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
February is the month of love, romance and letting people know you care about them. It’s also Heart Month, so make sure you don’t forget to give some love to your heart!
Did you know every 7 minutes in Canada someone dies of heart disease or a stroke? This makes heart disease and strokes, two leading causes of death.1
Many of the risk factors associated with heart disease and strokes are things that you can control. These include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and being an unhealthy weight.2,3 These risk factors can be modified through your diet.
Here are some specific nutrients and how they impact heart health.
Two types of fibre that benefit heart health are soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre: When you eat soluble fibre, it mixes with water and forms a gel (which is thick). This helps slow down digestion, which makes you feel full for longer, and helps balance blood sugar levels.4 Along with a diet low in saturated fat and trans fats, soluble fibre also lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.4,5 Common sources include: oats, oat bran, beans, peas, strawberries, apple pulp.5
Insoluble Fibre: You cannot digest this type of fibre. Therefore, it helps keep you regular, and slows down digestion. Like soluble fibre, this helps regulate blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk of diabetes, and helps with weight control. Common sources include: whole grain breads, wheat cereals, barley, beets, carrots, turnip, apple skin.5 Try this delicious Chicken and Barley Soup recipe to get a complement of both insoluble and soluble fibre!
For people who are “salt sensitive,” excess sodium can cause high blood pressure. On average, Canadians tend to eat too much salt, often without realizing it.6 Common sources of sodium include: table salt, processed foods, fast food, mixed dishes (i.e. macaroni and cheese, casseroles, lasagna) and some soups.7
Potassium is also important nutrient for preventing heart disease and stroke. Sodium and potassium work together to regulate blood pressure in the body.8-10 Potassium helps to relax blood vessels and balance sodium levels in your body, which allows for a healthy blood pressure level to be maintained.11
Common sources of potassium include: sweet potatoes, potatoes, dark-leafy greens, lima beans, peas, bananas.11
Try this hearty Grilled Buttermilk Chicken Legs & Sweet Potato Mash for a lower sodium and higher potassium dinner idea. You can boost your potassium intake by choosing and preparing whole foods, including fresh chicken, vegetables, and fruits more often.
Focus on “healthy” and “unhealthy” fats. Reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and avoid trans fats as these may raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.12
Eat “healthy” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation.
Monounsaturated fats: helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Common food sources include: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocados, almonds, pecans.12
Polyunsaturated fats: The two key polyunsaturated fats for heart health are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. Omega-3 fats: Prevents blood clotting, lowers LDL cholesterol and lowers the amount of fat in the blood stream, which is a risk factor for heart disease.12 Common food sources include: rainbow trout, salmon, walnuts, sardines, mackerel.12
Omega-6 fats: Lowers LDL cholesterol, however, they may also lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol if consumed in large quantities. Like with all fats, eat foods containing Omega-6 fatty acids in moderation.12 Common food sources include: safflower oil, corn oil, almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds.12
Cook for Love
This February, cook your way to a loved one’s heart with a heart healthy meal. Their heart will appreciate the love, and yours will too! Try this low fat Easy Peruvian Chicken for a warm winter meal.
- Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2012). Statistics. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2012). Heart Disease Prevention. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2012). Stroke Prevention. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Zelman, K. Dietary Fibre: Insoluble vs. Soluble. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- American heart Association. (2011). Whole Grains and Fiber. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2012). Dietary Sodium Position Statement. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Health Canada. (2012). Sodium – It’s Your Health. (Catalogue # H13-7/71-2012E- PDF). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Health.
- National Institute of Health. (2009). Sodium/Potassium Ratio Linked to Cardiovascular Disease Risk. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Harvard Health Publications: Harvard School of Medicine. (2011). Sodium, potassium together influence heart health. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Linus Pauling Institute. (2012). Micronutrient Information Centre: Potassium. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- American Heart Association. (2012) Striking a Balance: Less Sodium (Salt), More Potassium. Retrieved December 10, 2012
- Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2012). Heart and Stroke Health Check: Nutrient Standards for Fat. Retrieved December 10, 2012