Healthy Heart

10 ways to a healthy heart

Have you ever wondered about your heart and how you’re taking care of it? If you or your family have high cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure or systemic inflammation, eating a heart-healthy diet is essential for your wellbeing.

How can you look after your heart?

What can you do to start supercharging your heart health?

Eat the rainbow

Let’s start with a good old-fashioned favourite: colourful fruits and vegetables. Diets based predominantly on fruit and vegetables are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Fruit and vegetables help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (what some people call “bad cholesterol”) and decrease blood pressure, which is crucial for a healthy heart. Aim for at least five vegetables and two pieces of fruit a day.

Make fibre your focus

When it comes to dietary fibre, this isn’t just great for your gut; your heart’s a big fan of it too. Whole grains and plants offer an incredible source of dietary fibre, which is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lowered LDL cholesterol. Try to add more beans, oats and flaxseeds to help lower total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Studies also indicate that high-fibre foods have other heart health benefits, like reducing blood pressure and overall inflammation.

Include foods rich in magnesium

Magnesium helps to maintain a regular heart rhythm and a healthy cardiovascular system. I recommend upping the avocados, pumpkin seeds, spinach, nuts, tofu, whole grains and oily fish.

Make healthy fat choices

Fat has undoubtedly got a bad rap in the past, but more people are becoming open to introducing good fats into their diet. While eating saturated fat and trans fats found in processed foods like processed meats, fried foods and desserts can raise blood cholesterol, unsaturated fats have the opposite effect. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol and increase our risk of heart disease, so avoid them as much as possible. Opt for unsaturated fats in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help lower blood cholesterol and inflammation. You can find these in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, flaxseeds and avocado.

Reduce your alcohol intake

In healthy adults, consuming low to moderate amounts of alcohol has no short-term impacts on blood pressure, binge drinking increases your risk of heightened blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Include regular exercise

A healthy diet isn’t the only way to a healthy heart; your heart also needs movement. A combination of resistance and aerobic exercise is essential for a strong heart. Regular exercise has a favourable effect on cardiovascular disease, promoting a healthy weight, reducing LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, and improving high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (our “good” cholesterol). Plus, exercise releases happy hormones that boost mood and reduce stress.

Take care of your mental health

The influence our mental health has on our heart is unquestionable, with intense experiences of stress increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

I recommend writing yourself a self-care toolkit and taking it out when you feel stress coming on. Include tools like:

• Box breathing: Take a deep breath in four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, take a deep exhale for four seconds and hold the breath out for four seconds. Repeat.
• Laugh: Watch a comedy special on TV, call your funniest friend or listen to a podcast.
• Water: Try a cool shower or jump in the ocean if you can.

Regular medical check-ups

High blood pressure, elevated body mass index (BMI), raised cholesterol and increased blood pressure increase your risk of developing heart disease. I recommend getting regular check-ups and tests to give you a greater understanding of your health status.

Get Social

Over six decades of research have proven that the absence of social connection increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. On top of that, not having a social network worsens the prognosis of people with cardiovascular disease. Go for a walk with a friend within your radius, organise a catch up with a loved one over the phone or plan a Zoom trivia night.

Crispy Salmon with Saffron, Aioli & Smashed Green Peas

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INGREDIENTS 

Saffron Aioli
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Pinch saffron threads, soaked in a little
lemon juice
375mL extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Smashed Peas
200g frozen peas
50mL vegetable stock
Pinch sea salt
30g butter
Juice 1 lemon
Freshly ground black
pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Handful mint leaves
1 tbsp snipped chives

4 salmon fillets, skin on
Sea salt, for rubbing
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, sliced & roasted,
to serve (optional)
Chives & edible flowers, to serve (optional)

Method

To make the saffron aioli, blend the garlic, lemon juice, salt, egg yolks and mustard in a food processor and mix well.\

Add the saffron and process again.

With the motor still running, very slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will emulsify to a mayonnaise-like consistency. Season to taste.

To make the smashed peas, put the peas and stock in a medium saucepan, season with salt and cook over medium–high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender. Remove from the heat, strain and stir in the butter.

Gently mash the peas with a fork, then stir in the lemon juice and pepper. Mix in the olive oil a little at a time, until the peas have the desired consistency. Fold in the herbs.

Pat the salmon dry with paper towel and rub salt into the skin. Heat a large frying pan over medium–high heat, then add the olive oil and heat until the oil shimmers.

Place the salmon fillets in the pan skin side down and press on them with a spatula to ensure all of the skin is in contact with the pan. Cook for 4–5 mins until the skin is crispy and the salmon is still pink inside. Turn over with a spatula, turn off the heat and let the fish sit in the pan for no more than 1 min.

Divide the smashed peas between 4 serving plates and top with the salmon and the roasted lemon slices, if using. Garnish with chives and edible flowers, if using, and serve with the aioli on the side.

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.

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