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World Heart Day 2019: Nourish your heart with these healthy diet tips!

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By Sweety Das

In a rapidly evolving world, healthy living and wellbeing are increasingly becoming the center of many conversations. Ease of information available at a touch has only advanced such conversations and has made us far more cognizant about our dietary and health practices. We have started to sit up and take note of illnesses and diseases that are prone to stake claim on our lives in the long run. One such disease is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), which affects millions of people every year.

CVD entails disease of the heart and strokes, both of which can be fatal. And treating heart ailments can be strenuous. In light of this, the popular saying, 'prevention is better than cure' holds relevance more than ever. While, maintaining healthy body weight and indulging in regular physical activities are imperative for keeping your heart healthy, it is equally important to make healthy food choices. In fact, research shows that a heart-healthy diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by 80%, coupled with other healthy lifestyle choices. It can help to further reduce your risk of CVD by improving your cholesterol levels, reducing your blood pressure, managing weight and blood glucose levels.

World Heart Day 2019 Theme: Why do we celebrate Heart Day?

The theme for World Heart Day 2019 – Creating a global community of 'Heart Heroes' – highlights precisely that! It pledges a commitment from people from all walks of life who are acting now to live longer, better and heart-healthy lives by making a promise and all of this begins with the crucial step of eating right.

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While most heart-healthy dietary approaches talk about what you should eliminate or limit from your diet (usually foods that you love!), the practical ones emphasize on the benefits of adding certain foods to further improve or enhance your health.

Here are some handy tips to begin your journey towards a healthy heart:

Choose more whole grain and fibre-rich foods

According to a systematic review by Barrett EM et al, 2019 consumption of whole grain, cereal fibre and wheat bran were associated with reduced risk of CVD. In fact, research shows that every 10g of fibre you eat can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by 10%. Soluble fibre from oats and barley are especially effective in lowering cholesterol and hence, are considered to be heart friendly. Aim for three portions of whole grain foods (1 portion = 30 g) and 30- 40 g dietary fibre daily. Include foods like breakfast cereals made with whole grain, serves of whole fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes to get a good balance of fibre in the diet daily.

Be smart about fats

The type and quantity of fat impacts the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. One must limit the use of saturated fat – butter, ghee, full-fat dairy products, Vanaspati and palm oil. Adopt cooking methods such as grilling, broiling and baking instead of deep-frying. For pre-packaged foods, look for terms like 'partially hydrogenated' or 'hydrogenated' in the ingredient list, these words mean that the product contains trans-fat.

Here are some great ways to get good fats:

  • Go for fish
  • Get Nutty
  • Add Avocado
  • Use combination of oils for cooking
  • Cut back on salt

Remember, that when we add salt to our food, it becomes a major source of sodium in our diet. High sodium is related to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends 5g salt (= 1 tsp) per day for adults.

A longer, healthier and better life, all begin with a simple decision to eat right, and that begins today.

(Sweety Das is Nutritionist, Kellogg South Asia. Views expressed are the author's own.)