Six Super Foods for Your Heart and Your Weight

With the increase of overweight or obese adult, now is the perfect time to find out exactly how certain edibles can enhance how you look and feel.

Being overweight increases the rate of heart diseases because the heart has to work harder to compensate for the extra body mass. But it also has a negative influence on the other major risk factors of heart diseases – raising the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while reducing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, boosting levels of triglycerides, elevating blood pressure and increasing the risk of diabetes.

The good news is the solution is not necessarily limited to reducing to fit a size six. A modest weight loss of 5% to 15% of body weight – that is as little as 7.5 pounds if you weigh 150 pounds – can go a long way to improve your heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels while improving blood sugars.

So how do you get started? The route to a healthy heart is the same for losing weight and keeping it off – you need to follow a good diet and become physically more active. And it does not require a bland, low fat diet. So do your heart and your waist a favour – check if you are getting these heart-smart foods.

1. Oils and spreads made with canola, olive or peanut oil

Not all fats are bad for you. Monounsaturated fat – the primary fat in olive oil, canola oil, nuts and avocados – actually helps lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, while it increases HDL cholesterol. It is the perfect formula for preventing heart diseases. So use oils and spreads made from these oils as healthy replacement for butter, margarine and creamy dressings. And try some avocado on toast, bagels or as a base for dips. Remember, even good fats are high in calories, so you still have to keep an eye on portions.

2. Salmon, herring, sardines and other oily fish

These “fatty fish” have fewer calories than red meat and are a good source of protein without the LDL raising saturated fat. These fish contain good-for-you polyunsaturated fats, commonly referred to as omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 helps lower triglycerides and reduce the stickiness of blood, making clot formation less likely and thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular troubles. Not a fish man? Smaller amounts of omega 3 can be found in soybean and canola oils, flaxseeds and walnuts. These last two are also brimming with fibre.

3. Oats by the bowlful

Fibrous foods help keep your appetite and weight in check because they are low in calories and very filling. Insoluble fibre – found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables – is touted for its ability to maintain normal bowel functioning. The fibre in oats – as well as peas, beans, apples, pears and citrus fruits – is known as soluble fibre. It improves heart health by lowering cholesterol and keeping blood sugars more stable. And that is something especially important for diabetics.
Moreover, beans such as lentils, black-eyed peas and garbanzo beans – as well as dark leafy greens, avocados, orange juice and fortified breakfast cereals – are folate rich foods, packing a protective punch for your heart since folate can lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid which is thought to cause heart attacks.

4. Nuts by the handful
All nuts, except coconuts and peanuts (technically legumes), are nutrition powerhouses. The fats found in them – monounsaturated (almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios) and polyunsaturated (walnuts) – are good fats. So choosing nuts over snack foods high in saturated fats like cheese and potato chips will improve your cholesterol profile. They are also solid fibre providers and contain vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cholesterol from damaging the lining of your arteries. The snag is that they are loaded with fat, high in calories, and can be very salty (something to beware of if you are watching your blood pressure). Thus, choose the unsalted variety and buy them in individual serving bags.

5. Colourful fruits and vegetables

We all know that filling up on fruits and vegetables can help you shed pounds and maintain a healthy weight. But they also contain fibre and a combination of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, including antioxidants which help protect your heart. These beneficial factors give fruits and vegetables their colour, turning blueberries blue, spinach green and carrots deep orange.

There are seven colours of health: red in tomatoes; red purple in grapes; orange in pumpkin; orange yellow in oranges; yellow green in avocados, green in broccoli; white in onions and garlic. So eat a range of colours for optimal health. These are your true treasures at the end of the rainbow. Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

6. Soy foods

Apart from being low in calories and a good quality protein source without saturated fat, soy foods like soy milk and tofu play a key role in preventing heart diseases by decreasing LDL and total cholesterol without decreasing HDL cholesterol. They also have proactive antioxidant properties and omega 3 oil. If you are a vegetarian, you probably already include plenty of soy products in your meals. If not, ease them in with slices of bread made of soy flour, soy muffins, soy burgers or miso soup from local Japanese restaurant, then move on to soy milk shakes and add tofu, soy beans or textured vegetable protein (TVP) where you would normally use ground beef.

A final word of advice: Stay active! Short bursts of activity can be as effective as one long session when it comes to burning calories, losing weight and improving aerobic fitness. Exercise also raises HDL cholesterol and lowers blood pressure which will decrease your risk of heart diseases. Make the most of your lunch break by taking a 10 minute walk around the parking lot or get off the bus a stop earlier. You will be giving your heart a good break too.


  1. Thank you for this informative post. Will keep these foods in mind always. Cheers always

  2. It's my pleasure, Jam. We all know that we need good nutrition in order to be healthy, but for many of us, figuring out what we need can often be difficult. This post may just be useful.