1 Almonds: Almonds are a good source of protein and fibre and several minerals. They are also high in vitamin E, and contain smaller amounts of folic acid and vitamin B2. Almonds also contain monounsaturated fats, which can help to keep arteries supple and help prevent heart disease. Stick to the unroasted, unsalted nuts for the maximum hit of vitamins and minerals.
2 Apples: Long thought to be a healthy food, it is now known that apples contain the phytonutrient quercetin, which prevents the oxidation (damage) of LDL cholesterol, thus lowering the risk of damage to our arteries and, in turn, the risk of heart disease. They also contain pectin, a soluble fibre that seems to be very effective in lowering levels of blood cholesterol. Pectin also binds to heavy metals in our body, such as lead, and removes them from the gut.
3 Avocados: Pound for pound, avocados provide more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, fibre, vitamin E, folic acid and potassium than any other fruit. They are also the number one fruit source of beta-sitosterol, a substance that can reduce cholesterol. They also supersede other fruits in the antioxidant lutein, which has been shown to protect your cardiovascular system and prevent prostate cancer.
4 Beetroot: Beetroot is not only low calorie but is also packed full of nutrients. They contain high levels of carotenoids and flavenoids; anti-oxidants that help reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, protecting our artery walls and reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes. It is one of the richest sources of folic acid, which helps to protect unborn babies from spina bifida, and is also thought to help lower homocysteine levels in the blood. Beetroot also contains the mineral silica, which helps the body to utilise calcium, so is therefore important for musculo-skeletal health. Many people juice beetroot for its cleansing and detoxifying properties.
5 Blueberries: They not only look and taste great but blueberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanidins, some of the strongest antidotes to oxidative stress, which many scientists believe to be the cause of ageing in humans. Berries also contain a phytochemical called ellegic acid, which is thought to prevent abnormal cellular changes.
6 Broccoli: There is a wealth of healthy compounds in this vegetable, including two powerful anti-cancer substances, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. Sulforaphane destroys any carcinogenic compounds that you have ingested. Indole-3-carbinol helps your body to metabolise oestrogen, potentially protecting against breast cancer. Broccoli is also a good source of beta-carotene and potassium, which helps lower your risk of heart disease.
7 Ginger: Ginger contains several antioxidant plant chemicals including gingerol and zingerone. In preliminary studies these antioxidants have been shown to fight cancer and heart disease. One study found that gingerol was as effective as aspirin at preventing blood clotting, making it a potential aid against heart disease (although it is not recommended for people who are already taking anti-coagulants).
8 Pumpkin: Pumpkins and squash are packed full of beta carotene and are the number one source of alpha carotene, a cancer inhibitor potentially more powerful than beta-carotene. It also provides vitamins B5, C, E, potassium, calcium and fibre. And don’t throw out the seeds as they are an excellent source of zinc, essential fatty acids, and are a great source of plant protein.
9 Garlic: Numerous clinical trials have shown garlic to be an excellent cancer fighter – studies suggest that it has the ability to prevent the development of cancers of the breast, colon, skin, prostate, stomach and oesophagus. Garlic also helps stimulate the immune system by encouraging the growth of natural killer cells, which directly attack cancer cells. Eating raw garlic after heart surgery may help in the recovery due to its strong anti-oxidant properties.
10 Olive oil: Unlike other oils, olive oil is packed with hearty healthy monounsaturated fat as well as antioxidant polyphenols. Spanish researchers confirmed what we have suspected for years, that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables and olive oil, can reduce the risk of heart attacks.
11 Whole grains: Several epidemiological studies show that people who consume large amounts of whole grains every day have a lower risk of heart disease. Whole grains include brown rice, millet, oats and wholegrain bread. They may also help prevent colon, breast and prostate cancer.