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10 everyday foods to keep your heart healthy

Here’s how to keep your hungry heart full of vigour

brunch Updated: Sep 24, 2017 00:52 IST
Lovneet Batra
Eat everything from spinach to pomegranate and wheatgerm for a healthy heart
Eat everything from spinach to pomegranate and wheatgerm for a healthy heart(Shutterstock)

Whether or not you suffer from heart problems, or have cardiac issues in your family, the fact is that prevention is always better than cure. So here are 10 easily available, and easily consumed foods that will do wonders for that organ of life.

Spinach

Fibre from green leafy vegetables like spinach helps lower blood cholesterol, and stabilises blood sugar levels (Shutterstock)

Its high level of chlorophyll sets an alkaline environment in the body. Too much sugar from processed foods can increase triglycerides, bad LDL cholesterol and decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Fibre from green leafy vegetables like spinach helps lower blood cholesterol, and stabilises blood sugar levels.

Eat it: Cook in mustard oil to maximise antioxidant benefits and reduce bloating.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas slow down glucose absorption and provide high satiety (Shutterstock)

A legume high in fibre and potassium, and low in sodium, that regulates blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol. Being a rich source of folate and B vitamins, it helps lower levels of homocysteine, which is a marker of inflammation and heart disease. High in plant proteins and fibre, chickpeas slow down glucose absorption and provide high satiety.

Eat it: With rice to make your meal a complete protein.

Turmeric

Curcumin is a strong antioxidant which can also boost the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes (Shutterstock)

A powerhouse of nutrients, it contains curcumin, a substance with anti-inflammatory properties so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. It is a strong antioxidant which can also boost the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin effectively reverses the damage induced by high levels of homocysteine.

Eat it: Cook it in oil with black pepper to increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000 per cent, ie- 20 times more, instead of chugging a glass of haldi water.

Garlic

Garlic lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels (Shutterstock)

A saviour for anyone struggling with high cholesterol levels because of its antioxidant – allicin – which thins the blood, thus reducing the risk of blood clots and heart attacks. Garlic also lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels. 

Eat it: Ideally, have it raw and crushed because cooking destroys garlic’s ability to make allicin. If you’re cooking with it, chop and wait for 45 minutes to enable allicin production before you put it on the flame.

Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds help lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and reduce the risk of blood clot formation (Shutterstock)

A rich source of essential fatty acids (EFAs) that the body cannot produce by itself. These healthy fats help lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and reduce the risk of blood clot formation. Found in high concentrations in the brain, EFAs aid in the transmission of nerve impulses and are needed for the development and functioning of the brain.

Eat it: Roast and grind for proper digestion (poorly chewed flaxseeds can go undigested), and add a tablespoon to smoothies or in roti dough.

Coconut oil

Instead of being stored as fat in the body coconut oil mobilise existing fat stores and burn belly fat (Shutterstock)

Like any plant-based oil, coconut oil has zero cholesterol. It also has a high amount of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that, instead of being stored as fat in the body, mobilise existing fat stores and burn belly fat. It is a good source of DHEA, a hormone that protects against heart disease. This hormone is generally produced by the body, but the amount the body produces reduces after the age of 40.

Eat it: Take a teaspoon virgin cold-pressed coconut oil on an empty stomach to rev up your metabolism.

Tomato

Tomato’s lycopene reduces the risk of cholesterol accumulation and lowers blood pressure (Shutterstock)

Contains a combination of Vitamin A, C, folic acid and beta-carotene that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Tomato’s lycopene reduces the risk of cholesterol accumulation, and lowers blood pressure, showing results within eight weeks of regular consumption.

Eat it: Cook with olive oil for better absorption and functioning of lycopene.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate helps lower high blood pressure, improves blood flow and keeps the arteries from getting thick and stiff (Shutterstock)

Pomegranate seeds get their vibrant red hue from polyphenols – chemicals that are powerful antioxidants which help remove free radicals – and protect cells from damage and inflammation. As a good source of Vitamin C, fibre and potassium, pomegranate helps lower high blood pressure, improves blood flow and keeps the arteries from getting thick and stiff.

Eat it: Don’t juice it, eat it whole. Juicing removes the precious fibre and oxidises vital nutrients.

Amla

Amla helps stabilise blood sugar and reduces bad cholesterol (Shutterstock)

Popularly known for its high Vitamin C content, which is 20 times more than in a glass of orange juice, it also contains substances that protect the vitamin from being destroyed during heating or drying. Amla is loaded with chromium that stimulates insulin production, stabilising blood sugar and reducing bad cholesterol.

Eat it: Pickle in mustard oil for a dose of probiotic with your meals.

Wheatgerm

An excellent source of vegetable proteins, fibre and healthy fats that helps flush out toxins from the body. It is a natural prebiotic, meaning it promotes the growth of good bacteria in your colon. Studies have shown that a healthy gut is linked to low cholesterol and inflammatory markers. Wheatgerm’s plant sterol also lowers cholesterol.

Eat it: Add to a cup of yogurt to boost the probiotic effect.

(The author is a clinical nutritionist based out of Delhi and is a consultant with Fortis Healthcare)

From HT Brunch, September 24, 2017

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