Hearty healthy eating

Heart health is important – you probably knew that already.  But do you know how to work out if your heart health is good, and what foods to eat to help keep your cardiovascular system working well?  If your body isn’t circulating blood well it’s not circulating the nutrients your cells need to function well – so investing in keeping your heart healthy is an investment in keeping your whole body healthy.

Heart disease has been an important focus in public health initiatives for many years – not least because it affects so many people and can have such devastating health effects.  It’s given birth to a whole new ‘health food’ industry of products designed to lower cholesterol levels and a massive pharmaceutical industry dedicated to lowering high blood pressure.  But we want to take you behind the scenes, explaining how healthy snacks and meals can affect your heart health.

Your heart is at the heart of your cardiovascular system – it’s the beating pump that literally keeps everything moving.  But it doesn’t work alone – it relies on thousands of blood vessels to transport the blood to where it’s needed.  These blood vessels vary in size from the mighty aorta exiting your heart to the microscopic capillaries at your most far-flung fingertips and toes.

If you were driving along a road you would want it to be wide enough and clear enough that you could move at an optimum pace and make good progress to wherever it was you were trying to get to.  Similar principles apply to your blood vessels – you want to avoid blockages and damaged surfaces that can affect how well blood flows.  One of the ways to do this is to ensure a good supply of antioxidants.  They ensure that any cholesterol or fats in your blood (and there will be some – they need to be transported around your body just like oxygen) aren’t damaged because it’s when they get damaged they can end up causing damage to the blood vessel walls that can cause blockages.

You also need to produce chemicals like nitric oxide (NO) to manage how much your blood vessels change shape to increase or reduce blood pressure.  Unlike a road, your blood vessels can change shape, reducing in size to get blood flowing around the body more quickly e.g. if you’re stressed or exercising, or increasing in size if you’re relaxed and at rest and there’s no pressing need to get your blood anywhere too quickly.  If your body doesn’t have enough of the raw ingredients to make NO then your blood vessels aren’t as elastic as you might need them to be.

So what does all that mean for your healthy snack and meal choices?  Here are some foods to help your heart health.

Beetroot – this vivid purple vegetable is delicious grated in summer salads and coleslaws and roasted alongside other warming root vegetables in the winter.  It’s the nitrates in beetroot that can help reduce blood pressure – your body uses them to make NO which is important to relax, or dilate, blood vessels.  If you don’t fancy eating beetroot then look out for the Rude Health Beetroot Bar that has featured in previous Nutriboxes – a great way to get the veg in a snack bar.

Berries – if they’re purple or red like blueberries, blackberries or strawberries they are likely to contain lots of antioxidants.  These chemicals help prevent damage to cholesterol and fats in your blood that can then result in blood vessel damage. Try out our recipe for a raw vegan snack packed with berries

Skip the salt – when you consume a lot of salt (and you can consume a lot that’s hidden in foods from bread to pasta sauce) it can raise your blood pressure.  Salt attracts water – and in your body that means you end up with a relatively high volume of blood.  Like anything, if you try and fit too much into a confined container (like your blood vessels) pressure will increase.  And high blood pressure is bad because it increases your risk of stroke (among other things).  We don’t hide salt in Nutribox snacks.

If you want to find out more about the healthy snacks delivered in a Nutribox click here   

  • Ann White
  • 10 Sep 2013

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