Key foods that can promote heart health
Eating for a healthy heart means filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, fibres and healthy fats. Heart health is central to overall wellness. And no single food is a cure all; certain foods have been shown to improve heart health.
1. Whole grains – People who eat plenty of whole grains tend to be leaner and have lower risk of heart disease. |This is probably because whole grains contain antioxidants- phyestrogens and phytosterols that are protective against coronary disease. Try to include soluble fibres like oatmeal, barley, beans, okra, citrus fruits like orange as it lowers ‘bad’ LDL.
2. Nuts – Go ahead and get a little nutty. Eating nuts everyday decreases the risk of dying from heart disease by 29%. How does such a little thing have such a huge effect? They contain unsaturated fats, which improve cholesterol by lowering the bad and raising the good one. |Examples are almond, walnut, peanuts, pistachio all of which are good for your heart. It also contains Vitamin E that helps in lowering bad cholesterol.
3. Extra virgin olive oil- People at high risk for heart disease who followed Mediterranean diet (high in grains, fruits, vegetables) supplemented by nuts and at least 4 tbsp a day of olive oil as it reduces risk of heart attack by 30%. It is a good source of monounsaturated fats that decreases cholesterol and blood sugar.
4. Broccoli, Spinach, kale – When it comes to your health, you really cannot go wrong with veggies. These are high in carotenoids which act as antioxidants, also high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. These green vegetables are super health promoting foods for hear especially.
5. Soy – Soy products including tofu and soy milk are a good source to add protein to your diet. Soy products contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fibres, vitamins and minerals. And compared with milk or other protein, soy protein actually decreases LDL or bad cholesterol.
6. Dark Chocolates– Chocoholics Rejoice! Because of the flavanoid- antioxidant that can help suppress LDL present in chocolate, indulging in a square or two may decrease your risk of stroke. Just remember to stick to dark chocolate- your best bet is one with cacao content above 70%.
Foods to avoid or minimize that affects heart health negatively
Keep these meals and snacks away from your regular diet and replace them heart healthy options whenever possible.
Saturated fats– Butter, Sour cream, mayo- are high in saturated fats that elevates “bad cholesterol” leading to plaque build up in arteries. For e.g.- try replacing butter with vegetable based oil particularly olive and canola oil as both contains good amount of monounsaturated fats.
According to Harvard research chips and fries are one of the worst foods for your belly. It contains saturated fats which causes your gut to expand and puts your heart in danger zone.
Extra salt – Americans on average take 3400 mg of sodium each day. That is more than daily recommended limit of 2300 mg. cutting your sodium intake lowers high blood pressure. One of the easiest ways to cut on your salt intake is- do not add salt to boiling water for pasta or potatoes but add it to the dish when its impact will be strongest- usually at the end of cooking. Another way to slash your sodium intake is replace sodium laden foods with fresh foods.
Added sugars– For many years fats was shown as the biggest dietary cause of heart disease. But a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that studies have shown adding sugar in large quantities to processed foods contributes to obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Eating refined carbs and sugars in the morning is going to produce inflammation and make blood sugar go up and down. So you will crave more sugars throughout the day. Instead try to have fruits with whole wheat toast.
For many Americans, the largest source of added sugar is not from food, but from beverages. Recent government reports found that more than 60% of children, 54% of adult men, 45% of adult women had at least one soda or sugar sweetened drink per day between 2012 to 2014.
How does a person assess if his current diet is good or bad for the heart?
One has to assess his current food pattern to boost your heart health. A wise choice in your food habits will lead to healthy habits.
Avoid fad diets
Crash diet may works if you are trying to fit into dress next month. But if you want to improve your hear health , it will not help you. Meal plans that rule out one type of food whether carbohydrates or fats don’t work either. Focus green vegetables and whole grains to get long term benefit for your heart and waistline.Dont gorge yourself
Overeating will make you gain weight- studies show that more people have heart attack after a big fat meal. So try to be portion control.
Eat less salt- Try to avoid adding extra salt after meal is prepared. Aim for not more than 1tsp a day. Up to 75% of salt intake is from processed foods like soup, frozen meals. ALWAYS CHECK LABEL TO FIND THE SODIUM CONTENT.
Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption – If you have atrial fibrillation, caffeine and other stimulants can trigger symptoms. Its true studies shows that drinking moderate amount of alcohol, not just wine has heart health benefits. But do not assume that if a glass is good, a jug must be better. Excess intake drives up blood pressure and can trigger irregular heartbeats.
Author: Ujjwala Baxi
Registered Dietitian (RD)
Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
Health Promotion Board Youth Ambassador
Founder- Poshasn… cure thru diet