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5 foods that prevent heart disease

Want to know how to prevent heart disease? Nutritionist Robert Hobson gives us a ‘heart to heart’ about what to eat to preventive main cause of death in the UK 

Heart disease is a leading worldwide cause of death, being the top cause of death for women in the US, and the second in the UK after Alzheimer’s. Heart health organisations raise awareness of heart disease every year in February, considering it is the top cause of death for women in the US. National Wear Red Day for example is a huge event that has taken place in America every first Friday in February for the past 15 years.

The NHS says ‘most cases of premature death from heart disease are completely preventable’, by controlling lifestyle and diet habits. Yesterday it emerged that drinking half a pint of beer or half a glass of wine a week, is enough to put a person at a greater risk of heart disease. The research, undertaken by the University College London, tracked almost 4,000 people for 25 years, and found that alcohol can stiffen arteries.

This can be a confusing message, as Dr Darragh O’Neill, who led the study at UCL, acknowledges himself. Previous studies said have indicated that drinking could increase the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol in the bloodstream. In November last year, a study found that drinking beer was actually good for you. Researches at the Pennsylvania State University found that out of 80,000 adults a natural decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol in the body was slowed by a moderate intake of alcohol.

So, what DOES help?

With this aside, top nutritionist Robert Hobson shares what you can eat to imrpove your overall health, but specifically to prevent heart disease. ‘Heart disease’ is a broad term for any disease that involves the heart or vessels, including cardiovascular disease.

Oily fish

Omega 3, found in fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel, is recommended by Rob for its abilities to reduce inflammation and thickness of blood, and increase good cholesterol high-density lipoprotein (HDL). A previous research review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that consumption of omega 3s EPA and DHA was associated with a 16 per cent lower risk of heart disease in people with high triglycerides, or fats, in the blood, and a 14 percent lower risk for patients with increased bad cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The study, funded by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA, reviewed 18 trials with 93,000 participants.


A high intake of fibre has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, such as a study by Harvard of over 40,000 males. They completed a detailed 131-item dietary questionnaire used to measure usual intake of total fibre, and the results showed a high intake was linked to a 40 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease during a six year follow up. Another study, published in the medical journal BMJ, found that those who eat a lot of whole grains, which are high in fibre, have a 19 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, 15 per cent lower risk of cancer, and 51 per cent lower risk of diabetes. This was by consuming 90g a day, by switching dietary things such as white bread to whole wheat bread.  Rob explains that fiber also can reduce the risk of diabetes and also aid weight loss, which are both risk factors for heart disease in itself.


Research, such as a 25-year study of 100,000 people in the US, has found wholegrains including oats, can keep the heart protected from disease. The Harvard study, published in medical journal JAMA, found that those who regularly ate 28g of wholegrain per day, the equivalent to a small bowl of porridge, had a nine per cent lower risk of heart death. The oats act like sponges to soak up fat in the system, busting cholesterol.  Rob names the bad cholesterol lowering soluble fibre as beta-glucan. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a heart-healthy label for foods that have high amounts of beta glucan, based on such evidence.

Olive oil

Rob describes extra virgin olive oil as ‘the king of oils’, and recommends using the healthy fat for all cooking purposes. Research has found that polyphenolic compounds in the oil can reduce inflammation, a key step in the heart disease process, as well as reduce bad LDL cholesterol by protect LDL particles from oxidative damage. One study by the Harvard Medical School, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that replacing five per cent of saturated fats, such as butter and cheese, in the diet with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and walnuts reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 per cent. The study followed dietary habits of nearly 130,000 people over almost 30 years. However, it didn’t observe lifestyle habits.

Bright coloured fruit and vegetables

advised to eat a colourful diet, full of various fruit and vegetables. Rob suggests the natural compounds in plant based foods are antioxidant, which are thought to protect against free radical damage and inflammation in the body, associated with heart disease. The evidence for this is in dispute, however The British Heart Foundation recommends eating a variety to help towards your 5-a-day, part of a healthy diet. Red coloured foods, such as tomatoes, berries, and pomegranate for example, are given their colour because they contain antioxidant lycopene, which may help the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol.

Keep hearts beating by giving up chocolate

March is just round the corner, and to help fight against heart disease, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is challenging the nation to give up chocolate for a month.

DECHOX is a fundraising campaign, fronted by I’m A Celeb finalist Jake Quickenden. The TV-star originally found fame on the X-Factor, and now is turning his attention to charity. Stripping off (and showing off), Jake is luring fellow chocoholics to ditch one of our favourite treats to raise money.

The BHF have been changing lives of those affected by heart disease for 50 years with pioneering research. In 2016, the DECHOX got 18,000 sign ups, raising £860,000 for the discovery of more treatment. A staggering one in 6 men and one in 10 women die from Coronary Heart Disease in the UK, according to the NHS. So, what are you waiting for? Get involved with the campaign to help save lives (and then indulge on as many Easter Eggs as possible…)


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