Top 10 Foods


Improve Heart Health

POTATOES – Top 10 Foods

On a daily basis we are bombarded with information on what we should and shouldn’t be eating to help us lose weight, decrease our risk of disease and help us improve our health and wellbeing. Some of these messages often lead to confusion, as they are contradicting to other references, or are often claiming to be a “magical” new diet to fix every aliment. Recently an article was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reviewing the latest evidence on foods that are beneficial for cardiovascular health. Here are the top ten foods that could improve your heart health:


  1. Legumes

Legumes are one of the most cost-effective, affordable and sustainable proteins. They are naturally a good source of protein, low in fat, and contain dietary fibre. The research reveals that consuming four 100g portions of legumes per week can decrease the incidence of coronary heart disease, improve blood glucose control, lower LDL-cholesterol, lower systolic blood pressure and finally reduce body weight. One 100g portion of legumes is the equivalent to ½ Cup of Lentils, Chickpeas, Butter Beans, Kidney Beans or Black Beans (1.5 protein exchanges).


  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Marine sources

Omega-3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found abundantly in the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, pilchards and herring. According to the literature, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the risk of myocardial infarction (MI) incidences. Try to incorporate more fish servings into your weekly meals, aim for 3 x 90g servings per week. Homemade pilchard fish cakes, grilled salmon or sardines on toast can easily be added as a lunch or supper option for the family.


  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Plant sources

Plant sources of omega-3s include green leafy plants (spinach, cabbage, broccoli), walnuts and canola oil, as well as flaxseeds and flaxseed oil. Including these foods in your diet could assist with lowering your risk for fatal Coronary Heart Disease, heart attacks and recurrent heart disease.


  1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that we need to get in by eating foods rich in this nutrient. It is necessary for the metabolism of every cell in the body and is linked to the central nervous system, energy production, protein metabolism and the production of red blood cells. Due to its involvement in so many pathways, it really is necessary to ensure that we get in a sufficient amounts on a daily basis. In certain populations B12 may be deficient, such as individuals following a vegan diet, individuals with conditions involving the bowel (inflammatory bowel disease), those on medications such as metformin or acid-blockers, and finally individuals over the age of 50. Foods rich in B12 include; fish, poultry and eggs.


  1. Mushrooms

Studies have indicated that mushrooms can be beneficial for atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension and immunomodulatory. Mushrooms contain both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. How do mushrooms help so much? Mushrooms contain ergosterol, which is a molecule that gets converted to vitamin D2 when exposed to ultraviolet light. Regular consumption of mushrooms could decrease blood pressure, blood glucose levels, as well as total cholesterol and triglycerides. It is also necessary to have sufficient vitamin D levels to prevent the development of chronic diseases. It is suggested to substitute mushrooms for red meat as a strategy to decrease CVD risk factors.  Placing 70g of sliced button mushrooms in the sun significantly increases the vitamin D content.  Time to tan those mushrooms and upscale the benefit.


  1. Coffee

For the coffee lovers, coffee has been shown to be cardioprotective and associated with a decreased risk of all-cause mortality and CVD mortality. This is due to the polyphenols (antioxidant properties that help improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control) and caffeine in the coffee that we so love to drink on a daily basis. For individuals that are not usual coffee-drinkers there may be a small increase in blood pressure, which is not noted in the habitual coffee drinkers. Limit the amount of sugar you add to your coffee and be aware that lots of extra sugar is often added to coffee drinks. A freezo can easily contain 36g of sugar which is equal to about 8 teaspoons of sugar.


  1. Tea

Tea (plain and many variants, such as green tea) is made up of flavonoids and polyphenols, which are beneficial for improved cardiovascular health and blood lipid levels. It is important to note that this does not include teas being consumed with added sugar, dairy or cream. Black tea (occasionally >5 cups/day) is the best way to get the antioxidant benefits


  1. Potassium-rich Foods

Potassium is mineral. Some of the most basic work your body does depends on potassium: maintaining proper fluid balance, regulating blood pressure, transmitting nerve impulses and helping your muscles, including your heart muscles ability to relax. High blood pressure, or hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other conditions. What we seldom hear about is the fact that potassium is also important in regulating blood pressure. Although there is limited evidence explaining the mechanism, the role of potassium in the prevention and control of hypertension is very relevant and important. Potassium blunts the effect of sodium on blood pressure and therefore, in addition to reducing sodium intakes in the diet, it would be beneficial to increase the intake of potassium rich foods. The daily recommendation for potassium is 3500mg. One of the foods that contains a large amount of potassium is the potato. A 150g serving of boiled or baked potato, with skin, will provide 710mg of potassium, 20% of the daily-recommended potassium intake. Together with their high potassium content, potatoes are low in sodium and therefore have a naturally high ratio of potassium to sodium, which can help with lowering blood pressure.


  1. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which can assist with reducing inflammation and reducing cholesterol. Examples of probiotic foods include kimchi (fermented cabbage) and fermented milk/dairy, like maas. These natural probiotics have the potential benefit to lower the risk of Cardiovascular disease, dyslipidaemia and reduce weight. If desired, fermented foods can be encouraged, as there is no evidence of detrimental effects of consuming them. For example; yoghurt, sauerkraut or kimchi.


  1. Seaweed

The benefit of seaweed has to do with the high dietary fibre content and antioxidant properties, both of which are beneficial for cardiovascular health. Seaweed has anti-obesity and cholesterol-lowering properties, as well as the fact that it increases satiety (leading to weight reduction). You can add seaweed to soups, smoothies, dressings, dips and stocks to incorporate it into your diet.


In conclusion, remember that making dietary changes to benefit your health doesn’t always need to involve drastic steps that are daunting to you. Making small, simple changes that involve one food at a time can easily improve your overall cardiovascular health. See which of these foods you could start to incorporate more regularly into your diet.




  1. Freeman, A.M., Morris, P.B., Aspry, K., Gordon, N.F., Barnard, N.D., Esselstyn, C.B., Ros, E., Devries, S., O’Keefe, J., Miller, M., Ornish, D., Williams, K.A., Batts, T., Ostfeld, R.J., Litwin, S., Aggarwal, M., Werner, A., Allen, K., White, B. & Kris-Etherton, P. A Clinician’s Guide for Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies, 2018. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 72 (5): 553-568.
  2. Swanepoel B., Schutte A/E., Cockeran M., Steyn K. & Wentzel-Viljoen E. (2016) Sodium and Potassium Intake in South Africa: an Evaluation of 24-hour Urine Collection in White, Black and Indian Population. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension. 10 (11); 829-837.
  3. Labban L.M., Mouzik M.J.E. & Al Shekh Othman A.D. (2017) Comparison of Sodium and Potassium Content in Fresh Produce and their Contribution to The Daily Intake. J Adv Res Food Sci Nutr. 3 (3&4); 1-8.


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