World Heart Day Special – Best Foods for a Healthy Heart
Young Indians are increasingly suffering from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases. So much so, that the country has been deemed the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world. The Indian Heart Association says, “50 percent of all heart attacks in Indians occur under 50 years of age and 25 percent of all heart attacks in Indians occur under 40 years of age”. The statistics are scary but heart health is certainly something that we can all pay attention to; heart diseases are largely preventable. Along with appropriate exercises, a healthy diet is very important when it comes to preventing heart diseases. Here is a list of foods that help us stay healthy and keep heart disease at bay –
- Organic oat bran has repeatedly been singled out by studies as the one food that possesses exceptional cholesterol lowering qualities. Add to it the high fibre levels and satiety it provides and oats may well be considered the perfect food.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are known in preventing cardiovascular diseases. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are largely found in seafood, particularly in fishes such as salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, and trout (in the cured and canned products). Fish oil and caviars are also high in Omega 3 and should be consumed regularly.
- If you are vegetarian, don’t fret. You have plenty of options too. Nuts containing unsaturated fatty acids such as walnuts and almonds pack a punch and give you much needed energy while providing you all the unsaturated fatty acids you need for a healthy heart. Refrain from consuming a lot of these, though, since they are high on calories too.
- Seeds are not only for birds. Pumpkin seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and Phytosterols, sesame seeds in Lignans (bad cholesterol combating elements), and a variety of minerals, chia seeds in Omega 3 and fibre. Include these and other healthy seeds in your daily diet to maintain a healthy heart and to combat a number of other diseases.
- Berries are full of are high in antioxidants and polyphenols and also keep your heart healthy. They are also tasty and versatile. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, and blackberries also help increase HDL or good cholesterol. They are also full of heart health nutrients and fibre.
- Remember how your parents told you that brightly coloured foods were good for health? They meant heart health too. Carrots, avocadoes, butternut squashes, acorn squashes, sweet potatoes and such foods are incredibly healthy for the heart as they contain carotenoids and fibre. They also help lower obesity and combat risk of diabetes when consumed in moderation.
- As clichéd as it sounds, Eat Your Vegetables. Broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, leeks, onions, garlic, and even potatoes (in small quantities) contain Phytochemicals, Potassium, vitamin B6, Homocysteine, and other nutrients which play a very important part in combating heart diseases. Most of these can be consumed raw in salads or as a snack making them great for calorie watchers.
- Tomatoes are fruits masquerading as vegetables but there is no pretense when it comes to their health benefits. Tomatoes contain a carotenoid called Lycopen which is very effective in preventing heart diseases, say scientists. So add a lot of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and even sundried tomatoes to your diet to stay healthy.
- Dark green, leafy vegetables are great for your heart too. Indians, in particular, are known to consumer a number of green vegetables such as spinach (palak), mustard leaf (sarson ka saag), fenugreek greens (methi), amaranth (laal saag), basella (poi saag). If you’ve forgotten to cook these ask an elderly relative or a friend but do not give up on such tasty and healthy food.
- Beans and legumes are also called superfoods. Not only do they impart high mounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fibre, they are also very good for the heart. So substitute your regular split dal with chickpeas, red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and brown chickpeas for good heart health.
- And finally we have a completely enjoyable solution to heart health. A glass of red wine (about 4 ounces) a day is believed to contain heart healthy Resveratrol. While this may not be the ideal solution if you have a history of alcohol abuse, it can be good if kept under check.