Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Eating to protect your heart

Published:Wednesday | March 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Tofu combined with vegetables such as red bell pepper, tomato and carrot is heart-healthy. - Contributed

Diet plays a major role in heart health and the synergistic effect of eating a variety of foods from the established food groups is beneficial. Here are some heart-healthy foods:

Fresh herbs

Many ingredients used to enhance flavour can often be detrimental to heart health, especially when used in excess. Salts and fats, two flavour enhancers, can be reduced significantly in meal preparation without ruining the flavour of your dish.

We often do not appreciate the individual and distinct flavours of many Jamaican herbs when they are combined in one dish. There are others which we use only for medicinal purposes and not for their culinary potentials. Try experimenting with herbs such as rosemary in chicken, basil in tomato sauce and other fresh herbs in your steamed fish or oven-roasted or stir-fried vegetables.

Black beans

This bean is not used often enough although it's very flavourful and versatile. It is rich in fibre, folate and magnesium - all heart-healthy nutrients, and can create variety as we try to increase our weekly legume intake.

Oily fish

Fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which are excellent for heart health. Try not to add fat to the preparation of these fish. Bake or grill the salmon, and add fresh herbs to tuna, sardines and mackerel dishes.


Nuts such as walnuts are heart-healthy as they contain omega-3 fats, fibre and monounsaturated fats. Almonds are rich in vitamin E and fibre. They are great for snacks or as additions to various dishes.


Flaxseed is rich in fibre, a plant-type omega-3 fat and a phytonutrient called lignans. All of these nutrients are beneficial to the heart. Flaxseed is best ground for easier digestion and can be added to cereals, beverages and other meals.


Made from the legume, soy bean, tofu is low in saturated fat and high in fibre, healthy fats and proteins. Tofu can be used as replacement of high-saturated fat meats in your dishes.

Green vegetables

Leafy greens such as mustard and pak choi are rich in calcium, fibre, vitamins and heart-healthy minerals such as potassium and magnesium. They are perfect for adding to vegetable stir fries.


This cereal is an excellent source of soluble fibre which helps in lowering LDL or bad cholesterol. Apart from being used in hot and cold cereal preparations, it can be used to replace some of the flour in dumplings and baked items.

Sweet potato

This tuber is rich in carotene, lycopene and fibre. It has a low glycaemic index and so its effect on blood sugar levels is slower than that of Irish potato.


Cherries, blueberries and oranges have been shown to be heart-healthy. Orange is heart-healthy because of its pectin as well as phytonutrient properties and cherries and blueberries also for their phytonutrient properties.

Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email: