Three easy ways to reduce your cardiovascular risk
With over a quarter of deaths in the UK attributable to heart and circulatory diseases - translating to an average of 460 people each day or one death every three minutes - it’s something we all need to guard against. Advice for better heart health usually focuses on reducing saturated fat and salt in the diet.
While these measures will certainly have a positive impact, a new study from the American College of Cardiology has identified several micronutrients that can reduce cardiovascular risk. The top three are omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid (or vitamin B9) and the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Here are three easy ways to incorporate more of these heart-healthy micronutrients into your diet.
While there is no agreed recommended daily intake for omega-3, a recent study by the American Heart Association concluded that 3g a day appears to be the optimal daily dose to help lower blood pressure. The best source of omega-3 is oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines. A 100g portion of oily fish delivers approximately 4g of omega-3.
While plant-based sources aren’t processed quite as efficiently by the body, they are a useful contribution to your overall intake. Flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts are all high in ALA, the plant form of omega-3. You can make a nutritious nut butter by placing 150g walnuts, 150g almonds, 25g sunflower seeds, 15g chia seeds and 15g ground flaxseeds into a blender.
Process on low speed for 60 seconds, adding 3 tbsp of light olive oil slowly. Then turn up the speed to high and continue to process for 10 minutes or until the texture is smooth and butter-like. One tbsp of this blend contains around 1g of ALA omega-3.
Folic acid or vitamin B9, is found in edamame beans, avocados, asparagus, lettuce, sweetcorn, spinach, broccoli, mangoes, lentils and wholegrains. It is a water-soluble vitamin and so can be lost from vegetables during cooking. Eating vegetables raw or lightly steamed will help retain this vital micronutrient.
A tasty way to combine a number of these foods is to assemble a buddha bowl. You can include some oily fish, such as salmon, for even more heart health benefits. Starting with a base of cooked and cooled wholegrain rice (you can use a pre-cooked pouch), drizzle over a little sesame oil and give it a good mix.
Add some podded edamame beans, sweetcorn, sliced avocado, steamed broccoli florets and a pre-cooked salmon fillet. Finish with a drizzle of low sodium soy sauce, some red chilli flakes and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
CoQ10 is a compound that helps generate energy in your cells and research has shown it offers wide-ranging health benefits, including heart health.
Your body produces CoQ10 naturally, but this ability decreases with age. The good news is you can also get CoQ10 by eating foods like oily fish (yes, again!), organ meats such as liver, and also soy, broccoli, peanuts, pistachios and rapeseed oil.
Combine some of these ingredients to make a delicious side dish of steamed broccoli with a peanut sauce. Lightly steam one head of broccoli, cut up into florets. While that’s cooking, make the peanut sauce by whisking together 3 tbsp of crunchy peanut butter (sugar-free) with 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce, 1 tsp honey. Place the broccoli in a serving dish and drizzle over the peanut sauce. Serve immediately.