‘You are what you eat’ is something a lot of us say but a lot of us don’t actually take seriously. Not until we find abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride parameters, and the doctor starts saying- ‘You can’t eat this and you can’t eat that’. Several studies have confirmed that there is a direct relationship between heart disease and diet. A poor diet full of saturated fat, sugary and salt-laden foods can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels- all of which are high risk factors for heart diseases.
Studies on impact of diet on heart diseases
Several studies have shown that the role of diet is crucial in the development and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. According to a study, it was found that people who eat diet low in saturated fats, with plenty of fruits and vegetables have 73 percent less risk of cardiac disorders than people who eat animal-based diet. Research shows that there is a strong correlation of abnormal blood lipid levels with risk of heart diseases.
A new study shows that Mediterranean diet can be included in your healthy heart diet plan. The Mediterranean diet that is rich in Fruits, Veggies, whole grains, Olive Oil, nuts, beans, herbs & spices, legumes and Seafood is much healthier for the heart. Focus on veggies, fruits, grains and nuts make the food extremely healthy for heart. In Mediterranean diet, meat and sweets are consumed less often. Also, the use of cheese, poultry is in a much more moderate manner.
Diet and heart disease is like give and take relationship. The food that you eat directly affects the deposition of fat in the blood vessels, body weight, blood pressure levels, blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Heart-healthy diet is all about making smart food choices. Substituting food items that are harmful for the body with healthier options is important to promote cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart diseases. A few simple changes in your way of eating can be your first step to a healthy heart.
Foods or Meals to choose:
Vegetables and Fruits: Veggies and Fruits are the great source of vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in fibre content and are low in calories. Substituting high fat foods such as meat, cheese and fried snacks with veggies and fruits result in significant reduction in cholesterol and fat levels.
Whole Grains: Whole grains are rich in fiber and several other nutrients that play an important role in regulating blood pressure and in maintaining good heart health. You can substitute the whole grain products in heart healthy diet in place of refined grain products. Another easy way to add whole grains to your diet is by grounding flaxseed, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood.
Oils: For healthy heart diet, oil should be chosen carefully and should be always used in moderation. The healthiest oils that can be used for cooking are Olive oil and Canola oil. Also, try using cholesterol-lowering margarine or margarine that is free of trans fat in place of regular margarine or butter. Olive and Canola oils have monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats, present in nuts and seeds, are also good for heart healthy diet. Idea is to substitute saturated fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats in the diet, as they help in lowering blood cholesterol level. However, any kind of oil should be used in moderation only.
Fish: Fishes are a great source of protein and other nutrients. They are also great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help in reducing the risk of heart diseases. Ideally, including fish twice a week in the diet is a healthy option for your heart.
Foods to avoid or limit:
Vegetables with creamy sauces or fried or breaded vegetables: While veggies are recommended in heart healthy diet, consuming them in fried or breaded form or along with creamy sauces reduces the effectiveness of these vegetables. One should avoid consuming vegetables in this manner so that their effectiveness is not lost.
Frozen or Canned fruits with added sugar or syrup: Fruits are full of vitamins and minerals, and low on fat, which makes them ideal candidates for healthy heart diet. However, eating frozen or canned fruits that are preserved in sugar based syrup reduces the benefits of consuming fruits significantly. The added sugar or preservatives are bad for health and they introduce too many calories in the body.
Refined grain products: One should avoid or limit consumption of refined flour based products such as white bread, muffins, cakes, biscuits, pies, doughnuts etc. These are devoid of all the healthy qualities of the whole grain products and are rich in starch and gluten.
Butter, Margarine and Oils with Saturated fat: Sources of saturated fats such as butter, hydrogenated margarine, cocoa butter, coconut, palm and cotton seed oils, should be avoided as they result in increased blood cholesterol levels and are dangerous for heart health.
Reduce Salt Intake:
Reducing the salt intake helps in lower the blood pressure levels, which is good for heart-health. Also, snacks which are rich in salt should be avoided, as they can be extremely harmful for the heart.
Meat and Poultry: Meat and Poultry are good sources of protein, but they are also rich in fat content. Consuming these high-fat proteins increases the risk of heart diseases. Alternates such as fish or vegetable sources of protein should be introduced in the diet, and consumption of Meat and Poultry can be kept to a limited level.
Daily allowed amount:
The daily recommended fat intake should be around twenty to thirty percent of your total calorie intake. Out of this, the saturated fat intake should not exceed more than ten percent.