Be heart-healthy

  • Dr Anjali Mukerjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • |
  • Updated: Oct 22, 2013 13:57 IST

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. There are certain risk factors for the development of heart diseases that include physical inactivity, being overweight, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Increasing stress levels can also cause heart diseases. If you know what to eat and what to avoid, then you will be able to avoid heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Food for heart
When a grain is refined, its outer covering known as bran is removed, thus removing the grain’s fibre and nutrients. Whole grains contain dietary fibre and studies have shown that they help in reducing cholesterol. Fibre also fills up your stomach, making you feel full, which is a useful factor in weight management.

Whole foods include whole wheat, bajra, brown rice, nachni, whole pulses such as green moong, math, matki, black chana, rajma, green chana, fruits, vegetables and nuts with skin and seeds. Whole foods provide your body with micro-nutrients, which keep you healthy and your heart happy. Whole grains contain vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, which are useful for various bodily functions.

The quantity of food you eat is important, so eat in moderation. Keep a check on the number of calories you consume. Eat low-fat protein. Good protein sources include fish, egg whites, beans, soy and soy products and low-fat dairy products. Studies have shown that when people substitute a healthier protein source, their risk of cardiovascular disease is decreased. Fish like salmon provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial.

Avoiding salt is hard, but it is important if you want to have a heart-healthy diet. High sodium intake can increase the risk of a stroke and heart failure. You should limit your sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day. Most processed, canned and frozen foods are high in sodium so limit their intake.

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and rich in fibre. They contain most of the vitamins and minerals that may benefit the heart, including folate, potassium, plant sterols and antioxidants and vitamin C and flavonoids. Seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower, tomato, spinach and capsicum are good. Do not peel the skin off apples, pears and peaches.

Avoid bad fats and foods that contain cholesterol. Bad fats include trans-fats from partially hydrogenated oils, deep fried foods and saturated fats from full-fat dairy products and red meat. Also limit foods that contain high amounts of cholesterol. Avoid butter, margarine and hydrogenated fats.

Indulge in physical activity such as brisk walking, cycling, jogging, for at least 30 minutes daily. One clove of garlic per day helps improve your cholesterol levels. Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids which improve your cholesterol levels.

Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre


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