Tuesday 17 September 2019

Delicious recipes for a healthy heart

Oil-rich fish is full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which go a long way in maintaining your heart's health.

"At the age of 45 and over, you start to be more aware of how your lifestyle can impact on your future health,” says Sarah Keogh, John West nutrition consultant.

“It is important to take care of yourself to continue to enjoy life. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and watching what we eat are very important for a balanced lifestyle.”

Get your omega-3s

For optimal functioning of the body, fats are an essential part of the diet. With research showing that the risk for coronary heart disease increases around the age of 45 in men and the age of 55 in women, Sarah says choosing the right type of fat can make a big difference to heart health.

“Omega-3 fatty acids have long been associated with good heart health, in particular the omega-3s, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid),” says Sarah.

“DHA and EPA contribute to the normal function of the heart and also help to keep triglyceride levels healthy. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in blood and high levels of triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease.”

Oil-rich fish is a natural source of omega-3. In fact, Sarah says the major sources of DHA and EPA are found in oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon.

“The Irish Heart Foundation and Healthy Ireland recommend eating up to two portions of oil-rich fish a week. A portion is about the size of your hand, approximately 100-120g.”

There are plenty of ways to create unique, tasty dishes and incorporate omega-3s for a healthy heart at the same time. Oil-rich fish is very versatile and nutritious and lends itself to a variety of delicious dishes. These two recipes are simple, tasty and filling meals that are rich in Omega-3 and ideal for maintaining heart health.

Sarah adds not to be alarmed about the ‘high’ fat content on, for example, a label of tinned mackerel. “Oil-rich fish, by nature, is going to have more fat it in, but this includes the beneficial omega-3s, which are unsaturated fats.”

“Along with being a valuable source of omega-3, oil-rich fish is also rich in protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, and minerals such as iodine and selenium,” says Sarah.

Mackerel and Poached Egg Brunch

Mackerel and Poached Egg Brunch

  • 2tsp vinegar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 slices of brown bread, toasted
  • 1 large ripe tomato, sliced
  • John West Wood Smoked Irish Mackerel Fillets in Sunflower Oil
  • Black pepper
  • To serve: Fresh chives, snipped


  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the vinegar and reduce to a simmer.
  2. Poach the eggs for three minutes or until cooked to your liking.
  3. Place the brown toast on two plates and top with the tomato slices, then the mackerel.
  4. Top each portion with a poached egg.
  5. Season with black pepper, then sprinkle with chopped chives to serve.

Baked Potato with Mackerel, Beetroot and Horseradish

Baked Potato with Mackerel, Beetroot and Horseradish
  • 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 50g crème fraiche reduced fat
  • 1½ tsp creamed horseradish
  • Black pepper
  • John West Wood Smoked Irish Peppered Mackerel Fillets, flaked
  • 2 cooked beetroots, chopped
  • To serve: Watercress, Lemon wedges


  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C fan/gas mark 6.
  2. Place the potatoes in the microwave and cook on high for 6-7 minutes, turning halfway through.
  3. Brush the potatoes all over with the oil and place in the top of the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or until the skins are crispy but the flesh is soft.
  4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the crème fraîche with the horseradish and season with black pepper.
  5. Split the potatoes open on serving plates. Add a dollop of the crème fraîche over each serving, then top with the flaked mackerel and chopped beetroot. Serve with a handful of fresh watercress on the side of each potato and some lemon wedges for squeezing over.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy heart, there are some other key foods along with fish that should be included in the diet.

“Choose lots of high-fibre foods like fruit, vegetables, and pulses. When you are having breads or cereals, always go for the wholegrain options and choose healthier fats like olive oil and rapeseed oil. Eating fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to look after your heart – aim to eat at least five servings a day. Try to change up your main dishes regularly, by including either a form of lean meat, pulses poultry or fish.”

Plan your meals ahead of time and keep a diary of the food you eat and the activities you do. There are many healthy lower calorie ways of cooking, such as oven-baking instead of frying, or using a light cooking spray instead of oil. But, just because you are watching what you eat does not mean you need to eat the same thing every day!

Being physically active

Sarah Keogh

Being active is good for both your head and your heart, and it is recommended that we work up to at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity exercise a week.

“Exercise plays a big role when it comes to lowering blood pressure and maintaining a healthy heart,” says Sarah.

“This exercise doesn’t need to be extreme, just an activity which makes you breathe a little faster. If you enjoy going to the gym, that’s fantastic, but even a brisk walk is effective.”

Set yourself a goal that is achievable, for example walking during lunchtime, or in the evenings three times a week. Or, try joining a swimming or Zumba class with some friends. Drink water before and after your exercise session and remember to listen to your body if you feel unwell or dizzy.

Sponsored by: John West

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