A September is heart awareness month in South Africa. As a vital organ that we are only given one of, looking after our hearts is essential for everyone. Commonly known as heart disease or a stroke, cardiovascular diseases are still one of the number one causes of death in the world. Unfortunately, in South Africa specifically, cardiovascular disease deaths account for 43% of the total deaths in South Africa. These figures are very high, especially for the fact that many cardiovascular diseases are preventable through diet and exercise.

Looking to make your heart healthy through nutrition? There are a few ways to move in the direction. Fuelling your body with the right nutrients and food groups will get you on track to having a very healthy and happy heart. Here are a few small changes to incorporate into your daily lifestyle to make a big change.

1.) Eat MORE vegetables and fruit.

There have been many studies that have proven the link between eating fruits and vegetables and the decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease. As much as we would like to be told there is one specific vegetable or fruit that needs to be eaten, this is not the case. When eating more fruits and vegetables, it is the nutrients that we need. Nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin A, work as antioxidants that ultimately decrease the build-up cholesterol in the arteries.

  • Vitamin C Rich Foods:
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries

Vitamin A Rich Foods:

  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes

2.) INCREASE your intake of whole grains.

Referring to the group of grains that contain all the naturally occurring nutrients of the grain seed, nutrients that would be taken out of refined grains. These nutrients stay present in the grain, no matter what process it goes through. Grains like buckwheat; quinoa; brown rice and oats are foods that should be incorporated into everyday diets to combat heart disease. While we could go on for hours about the benefits of whole grains, to heart disease specifically it reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.

3.) DECREASE unhealthy fats.

As we all have a fear of the word “fat” incorporated into any diet. This should be the case when referring to saturated fat and your heart. Heart disease is directly linked to the increase in cholesterol and saturated fat increases cholesterol dramatically. Saturated fats mainly consist of animal-based fats meat, butter, and cheese, as well as fried and baked food. These foods are not detrimental to your health in small to moderate amounts. They should be limited and supported by a healthy intake of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.

Incorporating these small changes into your daily routine and diet to decrease your cholesterol levels. Along with a regular exercise regime, getting the right intake of the correct foods will have you on the path to a very happy heart.