Scientific evidence suggests red wine, dark chocolate, almonds, fish, garlic, fruits and vegetables to be protective. A study1 found that combining these foods in a meal called Polymeal would reduce cardiovascular disease events by 76%. Taking the Polymeal daily showed an increase in total life expectancy of 6.6 years for men and 4.8 years for women.
Wine & Alcohol
Red wine contains good chemicals that are good for your heart but it also contains calories (approximately 7 kcal per gram) and having more than the recommended will have harmful consequences such as liver disease and cancers. If you do drink, it is recommended to have no more than 4 units* a day for men, and no more than 2 units* a day for women. For both men and women, there should be at least two alcohol-free days each week to give your body a break. If you don’t drink, there’s no need to start. You can get similar benefits with exercise or healthier eating. Pregnant women or women trying to conceive should avoid alcohol completely, since it can cause brain damage to the fetus.
Dark chocolate contains cocoa which is protective. Unfortunately, the fat content in chocolate is relatively high so you should eat it in moderate amounts (about 100g a day). Whilst white chocolate doesn’t have any protective effects since it has no cocoa in it. There is a small amount of cocoa in milk chocolate so the protective effects are not as significant as the dark one.
Almonds provide good fat which helps to keep your heart healthy. However, almonds are also a good source of energy so eating too much may lead to weight gain. Only a handful of unsalted almonds (about 70g) a day is recommended.
Fish is a good source of omega 3 fatty acid which helps prevent heart disease. It is recommended to have fish at least twice a week, preferably oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. It doesn’t matter if it is frozen, fresh or canned – just pick whatever you enjoy!
Garlic can help lower cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure. There are many ways to eat garlic – fried, raw, and roasted… it is an excellent substitute for salt in cooking.
Fruits & Vegetables
These are essential for a well balanced diet and you should be eating at least two serves of fruit and three serves of vegetables a day to obtain optimum health. They are good sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals – all the goodness that keep you healthy.
- Have 1-2 small pieces of dark chocolate or a piece of fruit or a handful of almonds for snacks.
- Include vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Use garlic for flavouring in cooking and use less salt.
- Have oily fish at least twice a week.
* 1 unit = a standard serve of wine (approximately 100ml).
- Franco OH et al. The Polymeal: a more natural, safer, and probably tastier (than the Polypill) strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 75%. BMJ, 2004,18;329(7480):1447-50.