By Dr. Gaurav Bansal
A healthy heart is essential for overall health. It helps us to whatever we wish to do without expecting much in return. Two of the simplest ways to to keep the heart healthy are – diet and exercise. Improving your heart health is not difficult if you know what to eat, how and when.
A cardiac diet or a heart-healthy diet plan coupled with regular exercise meditation and yoga can help boost heart health and prolong life. All it takes is to avoid saturated fats, trans fats, excess sodium and sugar. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods. This strategy can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat:
- Avoid overloading your plate,
- Avoid eating more calories than you should
- Use a small plate or bowl to control your portions.
- Keep track of the number of servings you eat.
HEART HEALTHY FOODS
Eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Breads or pastas are higher in fiber and complex carbohydrates so instead of white breads chose whole grain breads and sandwitches.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables- they add flavor and variety to the diet
- Baking, boiling, and roasting are the healthiest ways to prepare meat and poultry
- Choose fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese products
- Eat protein–rich foods, including fish, lean meats, skinless poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, and beans
FRUIT & VEGETABLES: Fruits and vegetables and are undoubtedly healthy foods. They boost your immune system, providing the nutrients your body needs, and help reduce inflammation. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.
Vegetables and fruits, like other plants or plant-based foods, contain substances that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you cut back on higher-calorie foods, such as meat, cheese, and snack foods. Some fruits/ vegetables which are healthy for the heart are-
- SPINACH -is very healthy and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. Eating spinach is good for eyes, reduces oxidative stress, helps prevent cancer, and reduces blood pressure.
- BROCCOLI - is a nutritional stoor full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Eating broccoli may lower blood sugar and improve diabetic control. Broccoli also contains multiple anti-oxidant, anti-inflamatory and anti-cancer properties
- CAULIFLOWER- enhances weight loss and digestion. Contains fiber, provides antioxidants and phytonutrients that can protect against cancer. It also contains choline a nutrient that supports bodily functions like cellular growth, learning and memory.
- TOMATO – is a nutrition rich food that supports healthy skin, weight loss, and heart health. Including tomatoes in the diet can protect against cancer, maintain blood pressure, and reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes.No wonder tomatoes are the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions.
- BELL PEPPERS- also called sweet peppers or capsicum are low in calories but exceptionally rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Using them may lead to improved eye health and reduced risk of several chronic diseases.This makes them an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
- CARROTS- are a good source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants. Carrots are full of nutrients, but low in calories. This makes them a good food for weight loss. They are also good for the heart, eyes, digestion, besides reducing the risk of cancer.
- ASPARAGUS: is full of nutruriants like fiber, folate, vitamins A, C and K and low in calories. This is what makes them beneficial for weight loss, improved digestion, healthy pregnancy and lower blood pressure.
ARE FATS GOOD OR BAD? Whatever people may say some fats – called healthy fats — are actually good for you. Chose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, or canola oil. In general, you should try to avoid trans fats found in processed foods and snacks. To know if something contains trans fat look for the words “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredient on the product label.
SOLUBLE FIBRE: Eating soluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol level and better manage blood sugar levels. Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the number of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain farro, quinoa, or barley. Aim for about 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber per day; you can find it in:
- OATS are among the healthiest grains on earth. They are gluten-free whole grain and a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. It has been sceintifcally proven that eating oats and oatmeal can help in weight loss, lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease
- BEANS- are one of the most common food source worldwide and are packed with protein and fiber. They’re exceptionally high in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals while being low in fat and calories. Beans may be among the most weight-loss-friendly foods due to their high protein and fiber content, which helps you feel full for a longer duration.
- BERRIES are amongst the most nutritious, delicious, and healthiest foods that you can get to eat. They are low in calories yet rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and manganese. Berries are loaded with anti-oxidants and helip improve blood sugar and insulin response. Berries also have strong anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve an inflammation is your body due to infection or injury, as well as lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease
- FLAX SEED- can help to prevent and control health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: reduce blood pressure, decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth of plaque in the arteries and reduce the risk of arrhythmias. Omega-3 fatty acids have been tied to numerous benefits for heart health. These include:
- Reduction in level of triglycerides, usually in the range of 15–30%
- Reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure.
- Raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
- Can help prevent the formation of harmful blood clots
- Keeping the arteries smooth and free from damage
- Prevent the plaque that can restrict and harden your arteries.
- Reduce the production of substances released during your body’s inflammatory response.
- Can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Omega 3 Fatty acids are found in:
- GROUND FLAXSEED
- HEMP SEEDS
- CHIA SEEDS
FOODS TO AVOID: For a heart-healthy diet limit some of the following nutrients:
TRANS FATS & SATURATED FATS: increase our blood cholesterol levels. Trans fats are found in desserts, packaged, fried food, red meat, whole cream milk, butter and other dairy products. Look for the words like partially hydrogenated oil on the food label.
SALT: Most packaged foods, sauces, canned foods, and processed foods contain a high amount of sodium.Too much salt in the diet is bad for your cardiovascular health. That’s because extra sodium increases blood volume in blood vessels, raising blood pressure and making your heart work harder to pump it, and if untreated lead to Coronary Artery Disease and Stroke.
SUGAR: Soft drinks, snacks, and sweets like sodas, sweetened tea, coffee, energy drinks, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy, syrups, and jellies are one of the main sources of added sugars. Researchers say eating too much sugar can lead to increased risk of diabeties and higher risk of dying from heart disease..
ALCOHOL. Limit your intake of alcohol. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day. Women should have no more than 1 drink per day. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and cause you to gain weight. It can also contribute to or worsen heart failure in some people.