September is Heart Awareness Month in South Africa, an initiative to raise awareness about heart health and cardiovascular disease in the country.
Heart diseases continue to be the leading killer in the world, and 225 South Africans are killed by heart disease every day, with 25 individuals suffering a stroke every hour, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Despite the fact that 80% of heart disease and strokes can be prevented, conventional cardiology still focuses on treating the symptoms rather than the cause.
Preventative care will mostly be the best option for any individual, especially those with a family history of heart disease. However, there is a growing body of evidence that with the right, balanced diet patients can remove the cause of heart disease. A recent study from the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that eating more healthful plants and minimising animal foods can reduce cardiovascular disease by a third. We sifted through some nutritional studies to find foods that are rated highly in promoting heart health.
1. Wholesome fresh produce (preferably organic)
You guessed it, our favourite is fruits and vegetables. Fibre found in this food group improves the right blood sugar and cholesterol levels as a result of the roughage found in it. Try incorporating fruit and vegetables in your daily intake of nutrients and add nuts, seeds and beans for good measure.
2. Good fats
Low fat or full fat? There is so much controversy around this issue that it’s just confusing! Although there is no absolute evidence that low fat is healthier, there is evidence that fats from seafood (preferably from a sustainably sourced seafood), plant-based oils and nuts in moderation do lower one’s risk of a stroke or a heart attack. To help lower inflammation throw in fats from seeds like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, as well as avocado. Basically, stick to healthy fats.
3. Clean protein
Most of our protein comes fatty meats and dairy, yet this food group tends to be packed with hormones and pesticides. So, whenever possible, try to keep this minimal in your everyday diet. If you do indulge, try opt for organic, free-range or pasture-raised food sources. In South Africa, we’re lucky to have access to venison or grass-fed meat, which is also a good substitute.
4. Beverages with benefits
Nothing beats good old H2O – 8 glasses a day – but there are other beverages with benefits. As we look forward to warmer months, food growers around the country are getting excited about the abundance in their food gardens. Whether you’re into whole-foods juicing or making smoothies with plant-based milk, add the variety of abundance from the soil. These power drinks can be enjoyed as breakfast or a snacking beverage during the day. Also, experiment with different teas; add a bit of raw honey if you must. Be careful to not fall for the 100% store-bought fruit juice – it’s a trap!
5. Herbs and spices
Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Experiment with different flavours and aromas from herbs and spices. Spices and herbs like ginger, garlic, Italian herbs and curry spices add taste which makes eating healthy exciting and desirable. Plus, their medicinal properties like blocking arterial plaque growth, increasing metabolism and lowering inflammation are a bonus.
Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, urges all South Africans to have a Health Risk Assessment, which includes checking blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol levels, iron levels and weight. This is done for free during heart awareness month at all Dis-chem Pharmacies. For more information click here.
As we enter the new season, what better time than now to review, reset and refocus our health and wellbeing goals? My Heart, Your Heart and the Heart of all South Africans!
Disclaimer: External information referenced is for purposes of this article only and does not imply partnership or association with the organisation or its specific viewpoint.