Our heart is the most precious organ we have and is vital to every aspect of health. Unfortunately, Coronary Heart Disease remains the number one killer in the UK which isn’t surprising when over half of all adults in England have raised cholesterol levels, whilst 1 in 3 have high blood pressure!
It’s easy to take our heart health for granted, but by making a few simple tweaks to our diet and lifestyle we can help to protect our cardiovascular health and achieve long and healthy lives…
Whilst all fruit and veg contains an array of polyphenols, berries are unique in that they contain a high content of anthocyanin’s which are thought to play a role with their heart protective effects.
Data gathered from the Nurses’ Health Study showed that those who consumed the highest amounts of blueberries and strawberries were 34% less likely to suffer from a heart attack than were women who ate the least of these fruits.  What’s more, a large review of intervention trials has shown that berry consumption may reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). 
Since berries are low in calories yet rich in fibre and vitamin C,  they can only be a good thing to add to your weekly shopping list!
TOP SOURCES: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries
2. VITAMIN E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant, which may help to prevent the development of atherosclerosis, by protecting our harmful LDL cholesterol from damage and preventing its build up within blood vessel walls. Vitamin E rich foods can also help to minimise blood clots and may play a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
TOP SOURCES: Nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado.
3. HIGH FIBRE FOODS
As a population, we currently only consume a shocking 15-18g fibre per day which is just half our recommended 30g per day!
If you’re suffering from high cholesterol then soluble fibre is just too important to go amiss. This special fibre binds to ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and bile acids in the digestive tract. This means that cholesterol is eliminated from the body rather than absorbed into the bloodstream.
TOP SOURCES OF SOLUBLE FIBRE: Oats, oat bran, beans, lentils, sweet potato, almonds, apples and flax seeds.
4. VITAMIN C
We all know that fruit and vegetables are good for us, and those have a higher intake have been shown to have higher blood levels of vitamin C, which has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease  Vitamin C is an antioxidant nutrient. Test tube and animal studies have shown that this nutrient contributes to a reduction in the oxidation of harmful cholesterol as well as playing a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure. The benefits of vitamin C and heart health have not been replicated with supplements, so the key takeaway here is to always eat your 5 a day!
TOP SOURCES OF VITAMIN C INCLUDE: Papaya, bell peppers, brocooli, brussels sprouts, berries (particularly strawberries), oranges and kiwi fruit.
5. OILY FISH
All fish has been shown to support heart health, however, oily fish is extra special as it’s a potent source of omega 3 fats. These healthy fats may help to protect heart and blood vessels from disease. The current government guidelines are to consume 2 portions of fish a week, one of which is oily.
TOP SOURCES OF OILY FISH INCLUDE: Salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring.
6. POLY AND MONOUNSATURATED FATS
It may be time to put down the saturated fat rich coconut oil and switch back to humble olive oil. A diet high in saturated and trans fats can elevate our ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, which can increase our risk of heart disease. By replacing saturated with unsaturated fats you help to maintain levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and decrease levels of ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol.
TOP SOURCES OF UNSATURATED FATS INCLUDE: Olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
7. HERBS AND SPICES
Did you know that the UK population are currently consuming close to 9g salt per day when the maximum recommended intake is only 6g? There’s no doubting that excess salt within the diet can cause high blood pressure which increases the risk of stroke. Ditch the table salt and get experimenting in the kitchen with flavoursome herbs and spices!
TOP HERBS & SPICES TO TRY: Turmeric, oregano, chilli flakes, cumin, ginger, cardamom, rosemary, thyme, parsely and dill.