Nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one of the risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke, including obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and inactivity. Thankfully, we can reduce or eliminate many of these risk factors through lifestyle changes, including diet.

Incorporate these five foods into your diet and reap the heart-health rewards.

Wild salmon
This freshwater fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that when incorporated regularly in the diet can protect against stroke, prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Grapes
Packed with antioxidants, as little as two cups of purple grape juice daily can have incredible health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, and a rise in HDL (good) cholesterol.

Soy
Saturated fats, such as those found in meat and meat products, have been shown to increase unhealthy LDL (bad) cholesterol. High quality soy products such as tofu and tempeh are an excellent plant-based source of protein—but without the saturated fats. Further, soy proteins may lower triglycerides, leading to reduced heart disease risk.

Oatmeal
This stick-to-your-ribs breakfast (or dinner or lunch if you’re so inclined) is an excellent way to boost your fibre intake, which is one of the main pillars of a heart-healthy diet.  According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, foods with at least 2 grams of fibre per serving are best, and just 1 cup of oatmeal contains double that.

Pulses
Pulses, which include beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas, are excellent vegetarian sources of protein—again without the saturated fat that goes along with meat protein sources. Further, they are sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which can help manage healthy cholesterol.

Additional little tweaks to your diet in general can make a big difference.

  • Reduce your meat consumption, even just one day per week.
  • Fill half your plate with veggies and the other half with equal portions whole grains and lean protein.
  • Use cooking methods that require less fat, such as broiling, steaming, and poaching.
  • Avoid eating out of boredom or stress.
  • Opt for homemade food rather than convenience and fast foods whenever possible.
  • Choose healthy snack foods such as sliced veggies, fruit, almonds, or air-popped popcorn.
  • Don’t skip out on breakfast!