In the wise words of Bruce Springsteen, “Everybody’s got a hungry heart”, but are you feeding it well? Feeding a healthy heart is something really close to my heart as a large portion of my family has faced cardiovascular problems in one form or another. I am not alone in this as Statistics Canada has stated that 1 in 12 Canadians over the age of 20 have been diagnosed with heart disease, and sadly every hour about 12 Canadian adults over 20 years old with diagnosed cardiovascular problems die.
Our heart is responsible for pumping blood to our extremities, organs, and muscles. It supplies our tissues with oxygen, nutrients and removes metabolic waste and carries it to the organs that can take it out of our body like the kidneys and liver. We should be in awe of the truly heroic organ that’s plays an important role in many of the complex day to day functions of the body. Yet, often it isn’t until something happens that we take note of this importance, and more often than not this can be deadly.
However, preventing cardiovascular disease can be quite simple in the sense that what you put on your plate can really determine your heart health (as well as not smoking, that’s a big factor). To eat to promote heart health, we may immediately look at cholesterol and fats in the diet and try to reduce or eliminate them from our diet. Although those are some positive steps in the right directions there is something that should be added to the diet to really promote a healthy heart. The true superfood for heart health is fiber which is found in plants.
By eating a plant-based diet you will have a significate source fiber, especially if you are able to consume fiber-rich foods oats, berries, legumes, grains, and nuts. Fiber, especially insoluble fiber, has the ability to absorb cholesterol and carry it out of the body which can lower your overall cholesterol. This can be very important for those that continue to consume animal products and are concerned about their heart health.
The plant-based diet may be a key part when addressing some of the root causes of cardiovascular disease. As the plant-based diet is generally lower in cholesterol (since cholesterol is mainly found in animal products) and is higher in fiber that can help lower overall cholesterol levels. Although I want to advise a plant-based diet with little to no animal products that would include diets like a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, I do understand that the transition and even the want to venture down that road may not be an interest of everyone. So, here is a compromise which lines up with the new Canadian Food Guide and should be fairly easy to follow. Eat mostly plants. These are the wise words from Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food that neatly sums up the goal of this article. If you are worried about your heart health, it might just be time to consider adding more fruits and veggies to your plate.
Stay tuned for next week’s post to get some heart healthy recipes.
The Government of Canadian (2017) Heart disease in Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/heart-disease-canada.html
Michael Pollan (2008) In Defense of Food. Penguin Press
Akanuma Y., Hideki I., Hirohito S., Horikawa C., Kamada C., Tanaka S., Tanaka S., Ohashi Y., Okumura R., Yamada N., & Yoshimura Y. (2013) Intakes of dietary fiber, vegetables and fruits and incidence of cardiovascular disease in Japanese patients with types 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 36(12), 3916-3922. Retrieved from: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/12/3916