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Valentine’s Day and National Heart Month

February is all about the heart, with the annual love fest that is Valentine’s Day on the 14th and it being National Heart Month. According to the British Heart Foundation someone...

February is all about the heart, with the annual love fest that is Valentine’s Day on the 14th and it being National Heart Month.

According to the British Heart Foundation someone dies from a heart or circulatory condition every three minutes in the UK. Cardiovascular disease (CVD)  remains the leading cause of death world-wide. This means that many of us will live with the pain of heart and circulatory conditions, and many will lose a loved one to some form of heart disease.

The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of heart attack by more than 80% (1).  The inclusion of functional foods and supplements are gaining increasing recognition as important components in cardiovascular health. Here we’ll look at some dietary practices and supplements to help support heart health.


Plant Based Diets

Plant-based diets are associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and reduced platelet aggregation than non-vegetarian diets. They are also beneficial in weight management, reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes (1,2). Some research suggests that vegetarian diets reduce cardiovascular mortality and the risk of coronary heart disease by 40%. This is backed up by findings that indicate that a high intake of flavanoids from fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risk of mortality from CVD in both men and women (3). Of course, it’s perfectly possible to eat an extremely unhealthy vegetarian diet but there seems to be lots of evidence to support the adoption of a well planned plant-based diet for cardiovascular health.


The Problem with Animal Protein

Meats and dairy products are rich in sulphur amino acids which may increase the risk of cardio-vascular disease. Eating a diet rich in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains, means you will benefit from consuming fewer sulphur amino acids (4).


The Mediterranean Diet

If you don’t fancy going vegan or vegetarian the Mediterranean diet may be the way to go; it is associated with a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, a common cause of cardiovascular problems (5). It is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats from fruit, vegetables, olive oil, fish and nuts.


The Microbiome, Weight and Heart Health

Our microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes that affect many aspects of health. There is evidence to suggest that altering the balance of organisms in the gut, by using antibiotics for example, can affect the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and weight gain (6). So it’s important to look after your gut for a healthy heart.

The good news is that certain components in foods alter the gut bacteria in a way that is beneficial to cardiovascular health (7). The beneficial food components include:

  • Fibre from rye, barley, oats and berries
  • Plant stanols found in grains, nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils
  • Components in soy beans and oily fish. 

Whatever type of diet you eat here are 10 foods to incorporate into your meals that all benefit cardiovascular health:

  1. Chocolate – the good news for Valentine’s day is that consumption of cocoa is beneficial to cardiovascular health. Chocolate contains polyphenols, such as flavanols, which exert a favourable effect on many aspects of cardio-vascular health (8,9,10). So treat you and your loved ones to some good quality dark chocolate this Valentine’s day. 
  1. Nuts – eating peanuts and tree nuts is associated with a lower risk of CVD (11,12).
  1. Apples – contain polyphenols that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Apple peel contains higher amounts of phenols and flavanoids than the flesh (13).
  1. Berries – reduce the risk of CVD by reducing blood pressure and improving endothelial function, blood lipids and glycaemic profiles (14,15).
  1. Oats – rich in soluble fibre and beta-glucans, oats have been shown to lower cholesterol.
  1. Carobpolyphenols and insoluble fibre in carob lower triglycerides and cholesterol (16).
  1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) - ACV reduces cholesterol and total lipids and has a satiating effect (17).
  1. Seeds – eating seeds such as flax, chia, pumpkin, hemp and sesame seeds has been found to have an anti-atherogenic, liver protective, and antioxidant effect (18,19,20,21).
  1. Olive Oil – contains mono-unsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory compounds which have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health (22).
  1. Herbs and Spices – as well as making food delicious herbs and spices have protective effects against many chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases with their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering properties (23). 



The benefits of a healthy diet are massively increased if physical activity is included in the plan.

Exercise prevents oxidative stress, inflammation and vascular dysfunction (24).  It also raises metabolism, burns calories, decreases fat and increases muscle mass.


Tom Oliver’s Supplements for Heart Health

Tom Oliver’s B vitamins – needed for many aspects of cardiovascular health, the nervous system and energy production.

Tom Oliver’s vitamin C - acts as a potent anti-inflammatory, vasodilator and antioxidant in the cardiovascular system.

Tom Oliver’s vitamin D with K2 - Vitamin K and vitamin D work together to support cardiovascular health being anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic and lowering blood pressure.

Tom Oliver’s magnesium – needed for heart function, cardiovascular health and relaxation of blood vessels.

Tom Oliver’s zinc - may aid the treatment of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis which are all linked with cardiovascular disease.

Tom Oliver’s Omega 3 Herring Caviar -  omega 3 oils are anti-inflammatory and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Low incidence of sudden cardiac death is correlated with a high intake of omega 3 fats.

If you suspect you may be at risk of cardiovascular problems it’s important to get checked out by your doctor.




  1. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. May-Jun 2018;61(1):54-61. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease. Kahleova H et al.
  2. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017 Dec 20;6(12):e006659. Effect of Plant Protein on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Li SS et al.
  3. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2017 Aug;20:68-77. Flavonoid intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease and all causes: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Kim Y et al.
  4. EClinicalMedicine, 2020; 100248. Association of sulfur amino acid consumption with cardiometabolic risk factors: Cross-sectional findings from NHANES III. Dong Z et al
  5. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Nov;27(11):985-990. Relationship between Mediterranean diet and asymptomatic peripheral arterial disease in a population of pre-menopausal women.Mattioli AV et al.
  6. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017 Oct 27;19(12):59. The Microbiome That Shapes Us: Can It Cause Obesity? Omer E et al.
  7. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Nov 2. Improvement in cardiometabolic risk markers following a multifunctional diet is associated with gut microbial taxa in healthy overweight and obese subjects. Marungruang N et al.
  8. Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Dec 30;19(4):123-127. The Cardiovascular effects of chocolate. Garcia J et al.
  9. Hooper L, Kay C, Abdelhamid A, Kroon PA, Cohn JS, Rimm EB, Cassidy Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;95(3):740-51
  10. Belz GG, Mohr-Kahaly S. Cacoa and dark chocolate in cardiovascular prevention? Dtsch Med Wochenschr 2011 Dec;136(51-52):2657-63
  11. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017 Nov 14;70(20):2519-2532. Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. Guasch-Ferre et al.
  12. J Am Heart Assoc. 2020 Apr 7;9(7):e013877. Changes in Nut Consumption and Subsequent Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among US Men and Women: 3 Large Prospective Cohort Studies. Liu X et al.
  13. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2017 Nov 6:1-8.Epub ahead of print] Comparative study on the effects of apple peel polyphenols and apple flesh polyphenols on cardiovascular risk factors in mice. Tian J et al.
  14. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017 Nov 3. [Epub ahead of print] The Effect of Berry-Based Food Interventions on Markers of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health: a Systematic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials. Heneghan C et al.
  15. Zhao R, Li Q, Xiao B. Effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide on the improvement of insulin resistance in NIDDM rats. Yakugaku Zasshi 2005 Dec;125(12):981-8
  16. Ruiz-Roso B, Quintela JC, de la Fuente E, Haya J, Perez-Olleros L. Insoluble carob fiber rich in polyphenols lowers total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic sujects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Mar;65(1):50-6
  17. Bouderbala H, Kaddouri H et al. Anti-obesogenic effect of apple cider vinegar in rats subjected to a high fat diet. Ann Cardiol Angeiol (Paris). 2016 Jun;65(3):208-13.
  18. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2017 Nov 3: Flaxseed: Its Bioactive Components and their Cardiovascular Benefits. Parikh M et al
  19. Alipoor B, Haghighian MK, Sadat BE, Asghari M. Effect of sesame seed on lipid profile and redox status in hyperlipidemic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Jan 23.
  20. Ayerza R Jr, Coates W. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic fatty acid derived from chia when fed as ground seed, whole seed and oil on lipid content and fatty acid composition of rat plasma. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(1):27-34
  21. Poudyal H, Panchal SK, Waanders J, Ward L, Brown L. Lipid redistribution by α-linolenic acid-rich chia seed inhibits stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 and induces cardiac and hepatic protection in diet-induced obese rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2011 Mar 22.
  22. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Nov 9. [Epub ahead of print] Olive oil consumption and 10-year (2002-2012) cardiovascular disease incidence: the ATTICA study. Kouli GM et al.
  23. J AOAC Int. 2019 Mar 1;102(2):395-411. Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices. T Alan Jiang.
  24. Biomed Rep. 2017 Oct;7(4):337-342. Exercise improves high fat diet-impaired vascular function. Fang J,Tang


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