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Food for the heart

Published:Thursday | February 24, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Your diet should include foods that look like this.
Your diet should include foods that look like this.

Heather Little-White, Contributor

Today, heart disease is killing more people than ever before. You may be at risk and not even know it. We all know that 'we are what we eat', so a healthy diet plays a critical role in reducing the risk factors for heart disease.

Foods you should have

Your diet should include lavish amounts of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are dark green, leafy, bright orange and crunchy. Red-purple vegetables contain powerful substances to protect the heart by pumping up its production of natural antioxidants.

Whole grains such as wholewheat, whole oats, oatmeal, corn, brown rice, barley, bulgur and millet

Low fat or fat-free milk and other dairy products including cheese and yoghurt

Fish like salmon with ultra heart-healthy omega-3 marine fats

Poultry without the skin

Lean meat


Dried peas and beans and nuts

Unsaturated fats found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Extra-virgin olive oil has potent antioxidants called polyphenols capable of reducing the 'bad' cholesterol

Flax seeds

Lentils and other legumes.

Foods to watch

Reduce your intake of the following:

Fatty cuts of meats

Butter, whole milk, lard, mayonnaise


Ice cream

Frozen yoghurt

Trans-fats, the substance found in cakes, cookies, ice cream, pies, stick margarine

Sodium from table salt, baking soda and preserved foods

Added sugars such as corn syrup, corn sweetener, glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, honey, molasses, syrup, caramel and fruit juice concentrates.

Processed foods are usually attractively packaged so they will be selected over non-processed foods. As consumers, you must check the nutrition panel on the packages, which will indicate how many calories, saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol and other substances are found in each serving.

Tips for a healthy heart

✔ Use herbs and spices instead of salt to prepare your meals. Salt-free versions of the spices are usually available.

✔ Eat foods rich in potassium which have the ability to reduce the harmful effect of sodium on blood pressure. Foods rich in potassium include ripe bananas, tomatoes and tomato products, dried fruit like raisins, prunes, potatoes, lettuce and papayas.

✔ Eat fish and shellfish which contain omega 3 fatty acids. These acids reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. Oily fish like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel and sardines have more omega-3 than leaner fish such as cod and haddock. Plant sources of omega-3 include canola oil, soybean oil, walnuts and ground flaxseed (linseed) and linseed oil. Though shellfish is helpful in the supply of omega-3, it contains fairly high levels of cholesterol.

✔ Reduce alcohol intake as excessive consumption of alcohol can damage the heart and raise the blood pressure. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and two for men.

✔ Do not smoke.

✔ Get at least two hours of moderate exercise each week.

✔ If you are overweight, take off the excess and maintain your ideal weight.

✔ Check your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels regularly.

Carrot and Spice Quickbread (heart-healthy recipe)


1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup wholewheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/3 cup trans-fat-free soft margarine

1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons, firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup skim milk

2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice

1 egg or 2 egg whites, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp grated orange rind

11/2 cups shredded carrots

2 tbs golden raisins

1 tbs finely chopped walnuts


Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Cream, margarine with mixer or by hand in a bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Beat in milk, orange juice, egg, vanilla and orange rind, carrots, raisins and walnuts. Add reserved dry ingredients. Mix well. Spoon batter into 21/2-x-41/2-x-81/2-inch loaf pan, lightly greased. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Source: The Fix-It and Enjoy-It! Healthy Cookbook by Good Books.