Top Tips for Boosting Heart Health

A healthy diet, combined with simple lifestyle choices is pivotal for our heart health. Learn how!

Vitasoy ambassador and nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin gives her top tips for boosting your heart health:

Swap the bad fats for the good fats
What you eat and drink everyday can help increase your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. Preventing a build up of bad cholesterol in the blood is important because it can lead to narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can cause health problems, such as heart disease.

The key thing is to change the types of fat you eat. Swap foods containing bad fats (saturated fats), such as full cream dairy products and processed foods like cakes, biscuits, butter and fried foods, with good fats (unsaturated fats) found in plant foods like nuts, avocado, olives and fatty fish.

Incorporate beta-glucan into your diet
Another trick is to eat foods containing beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a soluble fibre that binds to bad cholesterol (LDL) in the gut. Once attached, it passes through the digestive system and flushes bad cholesterol out of the body as waste.

The recommended daily intake of beta-glucan to actively help lower cholesterol is 3 grams. To put that in context, a 40 gram standard serving of traditional oats contains up to and around 1.6 grams of beta-glucan. So if you have porridge in the morning made with regular milk or water, it provides half the daily-recommended intake of beta-glucan. What many people don’t realise is, if you use oat milk on your oats it provides the whole 3 grams in one sitting.

Stick to whole foods
To help avoid saturated fats and other hidden nasties, eat foods close to their natural state or products made from whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fresh meats. A little planning ahead of time can help achieve this.

On the weekend, do some research and plan what you’re going to eat day-by-day. Based on your meal plan, write a detailed shopping list of everything you’ll need before heading out to the supermarket. That way you’ll know exactly what you need and you won’t be tempted by anything that’s not on your list. There’s a common misconception that eating healthy, whole foods is expensive but if you plan ahead like this it can work out a lot cheaper.

Getting a good night’s sleep
What many of us don’t realise is there are hormones in our bodies that can help us feel satisfied or trigger feelings of hunger. Ghrelin stimulates hunger, whereas lepin signals satiety to our brains. A good night’s sleep is vital to balance these hormones. When we’re sleep deprived, we have more ghrelin and less lepin in our bodies, meaning we’re more likely to feel hungry and unsatisfied after we eat, leading to overeating. So try and get seven to eight hours sleep every night.

Keep active
Maintaining a healthy body weight is also really important when it comes to heart health.  Any exercise is better than none, so take every opportunity to increase your physical activity level. Instead of using the lift, walk up the stairs or ride your bike into town on the weekend rather than driving.

One thing I’ve found really helpful is wearing a pedometer: it helps me keep track of how active I’ve been during the day. On days where I haven’t moved around much, it prompts me to go on a long walk or take a jog the next day. The best exercise is the one that you’ll enjoy and stick to. So don’t be afraid to try something new! 

Keep your alcohol consumption down
Keeping your alcohol consumption down is important to your heart’s health, as it affects your blood pressure and heart function. Your blood pressure increases with each standard drink you have and heavy drinking can increase your risk of stroke. Furthermore, excessive drinking can also weaken the heart’s muscles and ability to pump blood and carry oxygen around your body. If you are going to have alcohol, make sure you stick to the recommended alcohol intake – no more than two standard drinks a day.

Learn your portions
Portion control is really important, especially if you’re struggling with your weight. While there are recommendations around portion sizes, a good rule of thumb is to reduce your normal portion size by a third. This will help educate your body and mind about how much food you need rather than how much you want.

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