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Heart friendly food

Changing lifestyle factors like increased smoking, alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, and stress contribute to heart disease.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 03, 2010 13:00 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Hindustan Times

India is literally on the verge of becoming the global capital of heart disease. Recently, I have seen a steady rise in the number of people suffering from high blood pressure and cholesterol. Changing lifestyle factors like increased smoking, alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, and stress further contribute to heart disease.

The unsuspecting patient may carry on popping pills and have little knowledge about the long-term consequences of uncontrolled cholesterol and blood pressure. One of the dangerous outcomes of this is angina or a heart attack, which is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles.

When an aorta of the heart is blocked due to thickening of blood vessels’ walls, the heart does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. And when the heart is not receiving its share of nourishment, one may get chest pain.

Angina typically occurs as squeezing, heaviness, tightness or constricting pain in the chest. The most important factor that protects your heart is the way your blood clots. The viscosity of the blood, its stickiness and its tendency to form clots is what you need to guard against.

Food, especially some fruits and vegetables and seeds, have a therapeutic effect on heart disease because of their blood thinning properties that protect you against heart disease.

It has a high amount of bromelain, which is one of the most powerful protein digesting enzymes. It has anti-clotting action that may help prevent strokes and heart attack, and it helps increase blood flow through by dilating the muscles that surround major blood vessels — an important aspect of the treatment of angina.

It also has anti-inflammatory properties due to which researchers look upon the fruit as more of a herb than a food item. Pineapple also contains fibre, vitamin C, and is rich in potassium and low in sodium, making it great for people suffering from hypertension.

Flaxseeds or alsi have oils that get converted into omega 3 fatty acids in the body. They reduce clot formation and keep the blood thin. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed’s heart friendly attributes qualify it as a healing herb.

Ginger is another herb with anti clotting ability. It is a good blood thinner. The active constituent of ginger, called zingiberene, has blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties, making it effective in treating heart diseases.

It is an excellent source of vitamin C, one of the most powerful antioxidants, and has unique phytonutrients. Free radicals in the body can unleash many reactions, making cholesterol highly reactive, which finally ends up accumulating in artery walls. Vitamin C prevents the progression of atherosclerosis, thus preventing angina.

Most people take drastic measures like switching over to just boiled vegetables and salads for immediate relief. However, such efforts lose steam within no time. Instead, a healthy combination of exercise and diet works like nothing else in the long run.

Heart healthy juice
250 gm fresh pineapple
1 tbsp flax seed powder (alsi seeds)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh ginger
Rock salt to taste

1. Blend the pineapple pieces and ginger in a mixture to get fresh pineapple juice.
2. Strain it for any residues, add rock salt, lime juice and flax seed powder. Serve fresh topped with ice cubes.

Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.

First Published: Jun 03, 2010 12:03 IST