Our heart is a vital organ needed for survival and overall quality of life and as such should be taken care of as much as it is within our power. Heart disease is a problem prevalent all over the western world; however, there has been huge advances by nutritionists in research of food choices good for heart health. Since it has been long established that diet plays a crucial role in our general well being; let us today examine the types of food that should be deliberately eliminated from / inculcated in our diet to boost heart health when taken in regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR HEART HEALTH
Limit your salt (a.k.a sodium chloride) intake:
Too much salts can elevate your blood pressure and an untreated raised blood pressure can over time wreck havoc on major organs of the body. According to the UK national health service, adults should eat no more than one full teaspoon (1 tsp) of salts daily; children should obviously eat less. The challenge here is that salt is hidden in most breads and ready made meals. The key to limit intake is to read food labels and you will be amazed at the levels of salts/ sodium present in prepared foods.
Eat 5 a day :
Aim to eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily as this will contribute to your overall health. The World Health Organization recommends that individuals consume a minimum of 400 g per day of fruits and vegetables (excluding starchy veggies, roots and tubers). The key thing worthy of note is here is to eat variety of seasonal locally grown produce and eat organic where possible.
Avoid eating Hydrogenated fats:
Eliminate hydrogenated fats ( margarine and co) from your diet. These fats are made by chemically introducing hydrogen into mostly vegetable oils to alter it into something hard. This result of chemical activities ( I refuse to call it food) has been linked to a high risk of Cardiovascular diseases. One way to really avoid this fats is to cut out store bought Pastries and other fatty snacks. There are healthier and better tasting alternatives in nut butters; these can easily be accessed and home made.It is better to go for organic real butter and keep it out of the fridge for a while when you need to spread it.
Wean yourself off Refined Sugar:
Eliminate Refined sugar from your diet as this substance is not only addictive but it has zero nutritional value. It contributes to weight gain and eventually obesity when unchecked by causing a quick energy surge when ingested which gives way to hunger pangs when it wears off causing you to eat MORE. This is unlike the more sustained slowly released energy from complex carbohydrates. It is present in most store bought cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks and ‘juices’.
Start a love affair with unsaturated fats:
Limit your fat intake to mainly unsaturated fats because they lower the levels of bad LDL cholesterol and help care for your coronary arteries. Common sources of unsaturated fats are avocados, olive oils, Natural Peanut butter, Olive oil, Salmon etc. One very significant way to do reduce the amount of fats we consume is to stop frying foods. There are healthier alternatives in grilling, baking and steaming which equals less oil consumption.You can also invest in an air fryer which is a kitchen appliance that enables you ‘fry’ foods with very very little oil.
Choose your animal protein wisely:
Eat white meats and Fish( aim to eat fish twice a week) more than red meats.Eating fish 2 or 3 times a week has been strongly linked to a decrease in the risk of heart disease; studies have found that eating oily fish can lower blood pressure and reduce fat build up in the arteries. Evidence so far points to the beneficial action of Fish oils which are omega 3 fats proven to help lower levels of fat in the blood and reducing tendency of the blood clotting. These oils are beneficial to the body and CANNOT BE MADE by the body and so has to be deliberately ingested. Top of the range of fish packed with these oils are Herring (Sawa), Mackerel (titus), Sardines and Pacific Salmon.
Red meat has to be reduced in your diet:
Research has established a direct link between a high red meat consumption and hardened and thickened arteries. The American Institute of Cancer Research has also linked increase in consumption of red meats with an increased risk of contracting bowel Cancer. Scientists have advised that we consume not more than 500 grams of red meat weekly totally avoiding processed meats( those that have been cured, salted, canned etc). When you do eat red meat, prepare it yourself ;cooking it on low heat as high eat produces some carcinogenic (causes cancer) compounds in the meat.
Deliberately make your diet fiber rich:
Load up on fiber ( both soluble and insoluble). Soluble Fiber are those that makes you feel full for longer and dissolves in water. Good examples of these are oatmeal, lentils and nuts. Insoluble fiber on the other hand also keep you feeling full for a long time by adding bulk to your meals and have a laxative effect on your guts for example vegetables, beans and whole grains like brown rice. Fiber will help you not to over eat and in the long term manage your weight properly as being over weight predisposes one to cardiovascular diseases.