Welcome to my third post for heart month. February is a declared Heart Health month by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the American Heart Association and other health institutions. The purpose is to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke, the silent killer, which takes the lives of one in three Canadians. In 2012, over 85,000 Canadians volunteered their time to this cause in hopes of helping to improve the health of their fellow Canadians. Today, 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

One of the leading lifestyle risk factors for heart disease we can control includes our food choices. We can make wise decisions about both the quality and quantity of food we consume daily. In addition to cocoa (my second post for heart month) here are my top five heart healthy foods to include in your weekly meal plan.

Five Foods for Heart Health

Bananas

  • Bananas have two heart healthy ingredients, fibre and potassium. One banana has 422 mg of potassium. This helps maintain normal heart function and the balance of sodium and water in the body. Potassium assist the kidneys to excrete excess sodium, thereby contributing to healthy blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease.

Barley

  • Barley contains a viscous soluble fibre called beta-glucan. In 2012, Health Canada approved a health claim based on scientific evidence that shows the consumption of at least three grams of beta-glucan per day, helps reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease (1).

Berries

  • Anthocyanins, a major component of many berries, have been shown to reduce arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women who consume one to two portions on a daily basis (2). Both arterial stiffness and elevated blood pressure are known risk factors for heart disease.

Oats

  • Oats contain the same viscous soluble fibre, beta-glucan that is in barley and have a health claim as well. A recent double-blind randomized control study compared individuals consuming 0.5 g total beta-glucan from wheat-fibre cereal to those who consumed 3g of oat beta-glucan (3). These researchers found that the individuals consuming oat beta-glucan had decreased total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Salmon

  • Salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. A recent study found that proportions of omega-3 and omega -6 fatty acids increased to levels that were associated with decreased heart disease risk when individuals consumed farmed Atlantic salmon twice per week for four weeks (4).

Recipe via driscolls.com

For an afternoon treat (be sure to monitor the amount of sodium in both breads and muffins), try a slice of this blueberry banana oat bread with a cup of tea or glass of milk.

References

1.  AbuMweis SS, Jew S, Ames NP. Beta-glucan from barley and its lipid –lowering capacity: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Eu J of Clin Nutr. 2010;64:1472-1480.

2.  Jennings A et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;96(4):781.

3.  Wolever TM, Tosh SM, Gibbs AL et al. Physicochemical properties of oat beta-glucan influence its ability to reduce serum LDL cholesterol in humans: a randomized clinical trial. American Journal Clinical Nutrition. 2010;92:723–732.

4.  Raatz SK, Rosenberger TA, Johnson LK, Wolters WW, Burr GS, Pickle MJ. Dose Dependent Consumption of Farmed Atlantic Salmon Increases Plasma Phospholipid n-3 Fatty Acids Differentially. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013;113(2): 282-287.