Have a Healthy Hearty Christmas
Christmas is meant to be a joyful time of togetherness and celebration. However, the “holiday effect” shows that death rates from heart related problems rise over the Christmas and New Year period (1). The effect is even seen in New Zealand where Christmas is during the summer time (2). This shows that the increase in deaths is a result of the holiday season, rather than being a seasonal effect. This may be due to delays in seeking treatment during the holidays as well as over-indulgence in high fat, high sugar foods and alcohol.
Whatever the reasons it’s worth looking after your heart and cardio-vascular system throughout the year in order to prevent future problems.
Here are some foods you can enjoy knowing they are good for your heart:
Cacao – reduces platelet aggregation, improves cholesterol levels, decreases blood pressure and reduces insulin resistance (3,4). Studies show a 50% reduction in mortality in those who eat dark chocolate. The recommended dose is 25g daily for prevention of coronary artery disease and reduced risk of heart attack.
Carob – Polyphenols and insoluble fibre in carob lower triglycerides (blood fats) and cholesterol (5).
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – In North Africa there is a tradition of drinking a glass of diluted apple cider vinegar every day to promote weight loss (6). This may not be as crazy as it sounds as research shows that metabolic diseases caused by eating a high fat diet are thwarted by taking ACV. ACV reduces cholesterol and total lipids and has a satiating effect (7).
Bee Pollen – honey and bee pollen in combination lower cholesterol (8).
Essential fats – low incidence of sudden cardiac death is correlated with a high dietary intake of omega 3 fats (9). The essential fats are found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils.
Seeds – eating a seed mix containing flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds for 30 days has been found to have an anti-atherogenic, liver protective and antioxidant effect (10).
Sesame seeds – lower cholesterol, decrease lipid peroxidation and increase antioxidant status (11).
Chia seeds – reduce serum triglycerides and increase beneficial HDL cholesterol (12). They also have protective effects on the heart and liver (13).
Hemp Seeds – have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and platelet aggregation, thus potentially reducing the risk of having a heart attack (14).
Olives and olive oil – contain mono-unsaturated fats that have a beneficial effect on cholesterol.
Coconut flour and oil – reduce cholesterol and triglycerides (15,16).
Goji Berries – decrease cholesterol levels and insulin levels while improving insulin sensitivity (17).
Lucuma – high in phenols and antioxidant activity which reduce inflammation and atherosclerosis (18).
Maca – lowers cholesterol and triacylglycerols and reduces high blood pressure (19).
Mulberries – used in Chinese medicine for the prevention of Coronary Heart Disease. Research shows that mulberries have preventative effects against atherosclerosis (20) and can lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (21).
Psyllium husks – a dose of 3-20g a day lowers cholesterol (22, 23). If you are on medications to lower cholesterol consult with your medical specialist before introducing psyllium into your diet.
Oats – rich in soluble fibre needed for the removal of excess cholesterol and wastes from the body.
Herbs and spices – use these to flavour food instead of relying solely on salt. Try basil, coriander, chervil, parsley, mint, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, thyme and oregano instead.
Natto – is a fermented soy product similar to miso. It has cardiovascular protective properties.
If you suspect you may be at risk of cardiovascular problems get checked out by your doctor.
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