Eating for a healthy heart

25 Sep 2023 15:41PM by Hannah Whiteley - Nutritionist

kauai smoothie


A healthy heart is the foundation of overall wellbeing and it can noticeably affect your quality of life. By making sure you have good heart health, you reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions. It helps to make sure you can lead an active and fulfilling life for years to come.  Seems worth it, don’t you think?

What we eat day-to-day greatly impacts our heart health and overall wellbeing. However, a diet reliant on ultra-processed and ready-to-eat foods can increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and ultimately increase your risk of developing heart disease. So, we want to share the importance of nutrition and what foods to put in your diet that will help support your heart health. 

Foods for a healthy heart

1) Colour

Eat a variety of bright and vibrant fruits and vegetables offers vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel function. As chronic inflammation is a major contributor to heart disease, antioxidants in fruit and vegetables can help.

Fresh, frozen, tinned, and dried varieties all contribute to one of your 5 a day. 

A portion is:

- 3 heaped tbsp of vegetables
- A dessert bowl of salad
- 2 small fruits such has plums or satsumas, or one larger fruit like an apple, peach or medium banana
- A handful of grapes, cherries or berries
- A handful (~30g) of dried fruit


2) Dietary nitrates

Vegetables high in dietary nitrates (green leafy vegetables, beetroot, Chinese cabbage) help to dilate blood vessels so that oxygen-rich blood can flow to your heart. Nitrates are also associated with lower blood pressure, reducing arterial stiffness, and improving the functionality of the cells lining your blood vessels. 

3) Fatty fish

Salmon, mackerel and trout are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing triglycerides and blood pressure and prevent irregular heart rhythms.

If you don’t eat fish, don’t worry, just try to increase your consumption of green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or cabbage, soya or rapeseeds oils, walnuts and flaxseeds, and foods fortified with omega-3. 

4) Wholegrains

Try and eat wholegrains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, instead of refined grains. These are high in fibre, which helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and stabilise blood sugar.

5) Nuts and seeds

A handful of nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds can provide essential heart-loving nutrients such as fibre, healthy fats and plant sterols.

6) Lean proteins

Try and eat lean sources of protein, such as skinless poultry, tofu and legumes, instead of meats high in saturated fat, such as processed meats and red meats. 

7) Olive oil

Replace saturated and trans fats with heart-healthy olive oil. Its monounsaturated fats can lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol levels. 

What foods should I reduce?


1) Trans fats: these artificially created fats are found in many processed foods, including margarine and fried fast foods. They can raise your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lower your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels. 

2) Saturated fats: Limit your intake of red meat, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. High intake can increase your risk of heart disease.

3) Added sugars: Excessive sugar intake is linked to obesity and high blood pressure. Aim to reduce sugary drinks, sweets and ultra processed foods.

4) Salt: Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, and this can increase your chance of developing coronary heart disease. You should try your best to read food labels and aim to consume less than 6g (1tsp) salt per day. Try not to add salt when you are cooking or at the table. Much of the salt we consume is hidden, such as in soups, ready meals, biscuits and some breads and cereals – so check how much salt is in them before buying.

5) Ultra processed and fast foods: These often contain unhealthy fats, excess salt, and little nutritional value. Where possible, try cook from scratch and consume wholefoods whenever possible.

On this World Heart Day, why not make these heart-friendly changes to ensure that your heart stays strong and resilient for years to come, this allows you to enjoy life to the fullest. If you decide to make changes, begin slowly with one or two suggestions, no one is saying you need to do everything all in one go. Remember that small, sustainable changes can make a big difference. Why not speak with one of your Virgin Active’s club Nutrition Coaches to support you with your unique needs and goals this World Heart Day.

Back To Top