It is a well-known fact that heart health forms the core of overall wellness. It beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime and pushes millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, nutrients, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products from metabolism.
“As such, many essential body functions fail in case the heart stops functioning, with some stopping almost instantly. It can also fail when its health is compromised by way of a poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, infection, and more. A healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, goes a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease or any other disease or illness,” said Anam Golandaz, clinical dietician, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai.
The expert went on to share certain important points that will help aid heart health.
Path to improve heart health
Following these nutritional strategies can help you reduce or even eliminate some risk factors, such as reducing total and LDL (low-density lipoprotein)-cholesterol; lowering blood pressure, blood sugars and triglycerides; and reducing body weight.
Control your portion size
Overloading your plate, taking seconds, and eating until you feel full can lead you to eat more calories than your body requires. “These extra calories will make you put on extra weight and lead to you being overweight and obese — the main causes of heart diseases. Follow a few simple tips to control food portion size – Use a small plate or bowl; eat more low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, and eat smaller amounts of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed, or fast foods.
Be smart about fats
Unlike widely believed, some fats are actually good for us and our hearts. When using fats for cooking, choose monounsaturated fats such as olive oil or canola oil. Also, a good source of monounsaturated fats are avocados. Polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts and seeds) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish such as tuna and salmon) are also healthy choices. In general, try to avoid trans fats that are usually found in processed foods and snacks such as bakery products, or packed food. Look for the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient label to know whether a food item contains trans fats.
What’s the difference between healthy fat and unhealthy fat?
Saturated and trans fats can be harmful to your heart and arteries. A basic rule of a heart-healthy diet is to lower these harmful fats but include moderate amounts of healthy fats such as mono- and polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fats. These are good for our hearts.
Whole-grains such as wheat, oats, buckwheat or wholegrain breads or pastas are higher in fibre, magnesium, manganese, selenium, B vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Choose them over white breads or regular pastas.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
They contain fibre, antioxidants ,vitamins, and minerals that are good for our heart and overall body.
Prepare meat healthily
Instead of deep frying, try baking, broiling, and roasting as these are the healthiest ways to prepare meat and poultry. Also trim any outside fat or skin before cooking.
Don’t forget beans
Dry beans, peas, soybean and lentils are good source of protein and fibre. They are also high in minerals without the saturated fat found in some animal proteins. Eating beans as part of a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may also help to improve blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.
Choose low-fat dairy
Go for fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, yoghurt, and cheese products as it is high in saturated fat.
Include lean protein
Eat protein–rich foods, including fish, lean meats, skinless poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, and beans.
What should you avoid eating?
A heart-healthy diet limits some nutrients. These include no-salt seasonings instead of salt.
Packaged foods, sauces, canned foods, and processed foods contain a high amount of sodium.
Sweetened drinks, snacks, and sweet treats are the main source of added sugars in our diet. These include sodas, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy, syrups, and jellies. Limit these types of foods and drinks.
Limit your intake of alcohol. Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and cause weight gain. It can also contribute to or worsen heart failure in some people.
“Know that no single food can make you healthy instantly, so your overall dietary pattern is more important than specific foods,” said Golandaz