Five simple dietary tweaks could help keep heart disease at bay

This Morning: Dr Chris discusses heart disease

Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. Risk factors like high cholesterol and blood pressure can lay the groundwork to the major killer. Fortunately, smart dietary choices could keep all of these culprits at bay, according to a doctor.

“There are a number of foods that help to reduce the risk of heart disease, however, it’s always best to focus on the quality of the overall diet pattern aiming to eat a variety of healthy foods,” Dr Shireen Kassam, who is a founder of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK, said.

However, the expert shared that five foods could be especially potent at staving off the major killer.

Whole grains

Dr Kassam said: “If I was going to point out individual food or drinks that are worth emphasising in a plant-based diet, I would suggest swapping refined grains (white bread, white rice, white pasta) for whole grains.”

Packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, whole grains can help keep your cholesterol levels, weight and blood pressure in check, the Mayo Clinic explains.

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The doctor said: “Adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds a day to the diet can lower blood pressure – a key driver of heart disease.”

A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that around four tablespoons of flaxseeds per day were able to significantly reduce a high blood pressure reading.

Furthermore, some research papers also suggest that alpha-linolenic acid, which is found in flaxseeds, might benefit people who already have heart disease.


Dr Kassam said: “Eating 30 grams of nuts a day has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.”

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Heart UK explains that nuts are rich in unsaturated fats while keeping their content of saturated fats low – “a mix that can help to keep your cholesterol in check”.

Another potent ingredient hiding in the small foods is fibre which can help block some cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream.

As cholesterol is considered one of the precursors of heart disease, keeping the fatty substance in check could consequently benefit your risk.

Soya foods

The expert said: “Soya foods, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame and soya milk are heart healthy and have a U.S. Food and Drug Administration health claim to support this, in part due to the cholesterol-lowering effect.”

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One of the reasons why these plant-based foods are beneficial for your cholesterol comes down to their low levels of saturated fat.

“Soya products are a good option for replacing foods which are high in saturated fat such as meat, full-fat cream and dairy products,” Heart UK states.

Healthy drinks

Dr Kassam said: “Beetroot juice and hibiscus tea are two drinks that have been shown to lower blood pressure and hence are good for heart health.”

Beetroot juice is rich in nitrate (NO3) which has the potential to reduce blood pressure.

Hibiscus tea contains flavonoids, which are plant compounds that have been shown to help lower hypertension.

The doctor added: “The nutrients in plant foods help to keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels low and keep our gut bacteria healthy.

“These are all important aspects of reducing the risk of heart disease.

“In general, a healthy plant-based diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by at least 25 percent compared to a typical Western diet.”

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