Healthy Eating that Protects Your Heart

28 September 2020

Healthy Eating that Protects Your Heart

Healthy Eating that Protects Your Heart

It is important to demystify the idea that a healthy diet only includes vegetables and “tasteless” foods and that it should be the same for all people. A healthy diet can often translate into the consumption of different foods depending on the person needs.


In other words, the same diet does not always work for different people and it is necessary to adapt it to the needs and restrictions of each individual. And being healthy does not mean you cannot enjoy what you eat, quite the contrary. With various offers that currently exist, of healthy and natural products, a healthy diet allows you to enjoy what you eat, without weight on your conscience.


 What does a healthy diet look like?

This is widely studied by the scientific community, as it is increasingly evident that “we are what we eat”. It is well known that there are healthier diets than others and, often, especially when the purpose is weight loss, people adopt unbalanced diets with health consequences.

So, regardless of the purpose, you should start with a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean, and adapt it to your needs and restrictions.

The Mediterranean diet, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, translates into one of the healthiest and most sustainable eating patterns in the world and should be used as a tool to promote a healthy lifestyle and balanced eating habits.


Mediterranean diet principles:


1. Frugality and simple cooking based on the variety and wealth of nutrients contained in soups, boiled food, the stews.

2. A high ingestion of vegetables in detriment of the ingestion of food products of animal origin, namely horticultural products, fruit, unrefined cereals, dried and fresh leguminous plants, dried fruit, and oil seeds.

3. Consumption of locally produced or of proximity, fresh and seasonal vegetables.

4. Consumption of olive oil as main dietary source of fat.

5. Moderate consumption of dairy products.

6. Use of herbs for seasoning.

7. More frequent consumption of fish and less frequent of red meat and animal fat.

8. Moderate consumption of wine and only with the main meals.

9. Water as the main drink throughout the day.

10. Social life and sharing around the table.


Thus, starting from the same basis, a diet must be adjusted to each person, as there are foods that, due to their nutritional composition, can be especially important for certain organs / functions: if you want to lose weight, you should adopt a diet with a lower caloric content avoiding simple carbohydrates and fats.


If you have a digestive or intestinal condition, such as Crohn's disease, you should avoid foods rich in fibre, caffeine, fats, and some vegetables, legumes, and fruits. In the case of the heart and cardiovascular system, foods that contain omega fatty acids and fibre should be privileged.


Adopting healthy eating habits matters. The food choices we make daily are essential to reduce the risk of diseases, with the emphasis on cardiovascular diseases, which are mainly responsible for the highest number of deaths, which, according to WHO, represent 31% of global mortality.


In Portugal, 35.000 people die annually from cardiovascular diseases, which continues to be the main cause of death and represents one third of all mortality, although many of these deaths and prolonged suffering could be prevented by a simple change in eating habits.


What ingredients should you eat for a healthy heart?


- Fish: rich in essential fatty acids from the omega-3 family, which play an important role in heart health. They make the arteries become more flexible, which helps to reduce blood pressure and prevents inflammation.

On the other hand, they are also important for the regulation of electrical impulses that support the heartbeat. Salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are part of the group of fish called "blue fish", which have a higher content of "good fats".


- Dried fruits: provide essential fatty acids and proteins. Another benefit of these foods is the fact that they are rich in flavonoids, substances associated with a great antioxidant power.

For the heart, the best choices are almonds and walnuts, which provide omega-3, vitamin E, fibre, folic acid and magnesium. But you shouldn’t exaggerate (about a handful a day) because their caloric value, along with the benefits, is also high.


- Red wine: in moderation (about two glasses a day) during meals, contributes to the intake of resveratrol, a molecule that has been studied a lot in recent years due to its antioxidant power. Several studies indicate that red wine in moderation has a positive role in increasing “good cholesterol” (HDL, which provides cardiovascular protection) and in decreasing “bad cholesterol” (LDL, associated with the atherosclerosis process).


- Legumes: beans, soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils are a source of plant protein. Experts have long recommended, in the case of cardiovascular disease, the replacement of animal proteins (especially when derived from meat) by plant proteins. These foods do not contain cholesterol and still provide important nutrients such as fibre, iron, calcium and potassium.


- Whole grains: they differ from refined cereals because they keep the bran and germ present in the grains. For this reason, it maintains nutrients such as fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and iron.


- Dark greens: food options that contain folic acid and vitamin B complex that decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Apples, also rich in pectin, a soluble fibre that reduces blood glucose (blood sugar levels), prevents the absorption of fats, and eliminates cholesterol.

Avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, a type of lipid linked to the reduction of cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Evidence shows there are significant health benefits to getting at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit every day.


- Poultry meat, fish, brown rice, soybeans, oats, peanuts, and hazelnuts: in this case the key nutrient is vitamin B6, which has been referred to in several studies as being useful in reducing homocysteine levels.


- Red Yeast Rice: This food has been on everyone’s lips. A very common ingredient in Chinese cuisine, it’s a bit more difficult to access in other countries. It has been tested and shown to be able to maintain normal levels of cholesterol in the body, due to the presence of monacolin K which decreases cholesterol production.


- Peanuts, sesame seeds and soybean oil: offer coenzyme Q10, an essential component in the process of obtaining energy. But of course, eat these foods in moderation!


- Garlic: is of the most important ingredients for your health, especially for the cardiovascular system. Its action, according to the scientific resources, helps to lower cholesterol and improve the HDL / LDL ratio.


- Artichoke: this vegetable contributes in a very beneficial way to obtain normal levels of blood lipids.


- Olive Oil: Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which is why it is considered one of the healthiest oils, since its benefits in preventing cardiovascular diseases are scientifically proven.


In addition to choosing heart-healthy foods, you should reduce the amount of salt ingested (WHO recommended salt intake to not exceed 5 grams per day), as well as saturated fats and simple carbohydrates.


You should also maintain an active lifestyle, exercising regularly and avoiding stressful situations. Tobacco is also very harmful to cardiovascular health, and beyond. By quitting smoking, you're helping both yourself and others around you.


A heart-healthy diet should consist of:

• weight control

• reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and strokes

• improve the survival rate after a myocardial infarction

• reduce blood pressure

• lower cholesterol levels

• control blood sugar levels

• improve cardiac functioning.


A good diet can prevent cardiovascular disease by 50%. Blood pressure control is essential to manage and assess the state of your health and to know if there are any problems (such as hypertension) and if the levels are regulated.


A blood pressure test can take part of an annually doctor's appointment but that is not enough.


You need to check it more often and increase it as you get older.


Braun ActivScan TM9 - Arm Blood Pressure Monitor


Easy and practical to use, the cuff opens thanks to a clamp system. Its lining has a soft, pleasant surface on the skin, making it comfortable and easy to adjust to any arm. It inflates gently for optimal comfort.     


A highly-rated around-the-arm blood pressure monitor for comfortable and intuitive blood pressure monitoring.


Your results are colour-coded, from green to red, so you can easily interpret your heart health. Additional features include averaging the last three measurements and detecting an irregular heartbeat.


To facilitate monitoring, this software also allows you to calculate the average systolic, diastolic and pulse value for the last 7 days. Saves up to 200 blood pressure readings per user.


Compatible with the Braun Healthy Heart App that is compatible with iOS and Android. The results are colour-coded, and you can consult them wherever you want on your smartphone.



- Directorate-General for Health:

- CUF Hospital:

- Atlas da Saúde:

- National Health Service:

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