The World Heart Day is on the 29th of September. A Heart Healthy Diet is not designed only for those who have problems related to the heart (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, etc), but also for those who would like to reduce the risk of heart diseases in the future. Following a Heart -healthy diet can be beneficial for all, especially since research shows that Indians are genetically predisposed to heart disease. Low physical activity, low vegetable intakes along with high fat intake has added to our problems due to which obesity and diabetes are now common among Indians.
A heart friendly diet should be:
1. High in fiber-studies have shown that a diet high in fiber helps in reducing cholesterol. Include whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat atta, ragi, jowar, bajra, whole wheat bread/pasta) and pulses, fresh fruits, vegetables and green leafy vegetables.
2. Low in saturated and trans fat– a diet low in fat, especially trans-fat (dalda/vanaspati, margarine,) is shown to be beneficial. Non-vegetarians can choose from lean meat like chicken and fish (especially those high in Omega-3 fatty acids like Indian Mackerel, sardines, salmon)
3. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids– a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is seen to benefit those who are at high risk for ischemic heart disease (IHD). It is essential for numerous normal body functions like building cell membranes in the brain and controlling blood clotting. Fish, walnuts, flax seeds, soy beans, spinach/palak should be included see the benefits.
4. Low in sodium-sodium is known to increase the BP and put more pressure on the internal organs including the heart. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for salt is less than a teaspoon/day.
5. Rich in Antioxidants: Found in coloured fruits, vegetables and grains, antioxidants are believed to help prevent disease by fighting free radicals which are substances that harm the body when left unchecked.
6.Rich in Fermented foods: Fermented foods contain ‘probiotics’ or in other words ‘live bacteria’ and yeasts that are thought to have health benefits. desi ferThe most commonly used fermented food in Indian houses is curd/yogurt/dahi, lassi, chaas/buttermilk. Check nutrition labels carefully for added sugars, thickeners and other additives that are used commercially and remember that fermented foods should be ‘live’ so need to be kept in the fridge. Heat treatment that may be used to preserve or cook these foods destroys probiotics.
Along side a healthy diet, being physically active is also very important. Speak to your doctor and then choose an activity or exercise that you can do for at least 30 minutes every day.
Here’s a sample Indian diet for healthy heart:
On rising: Water + Walnuts
Breakfast: Oats porridge (old fashioned/steel cut/rolled oats NOT Instant)+ Blueberries
Mid-morning: Green tea + Apple
Lunch: Brown rice + Palak dal curry+ Cabbage and pea’s sabzi
Cucumber and tomato salad+ Buttermilk/chaas (made from skimmed milk)
Evening: Tea/ Coffee with Channa chaat
Dinner: Paushtik Roti (with flax seed powder) + Baingan ka bharta + Fish curry
Carrot raita(made with non-fat curd) + Red grapes
(NOTE:Portion control is very important. To find out the right portion sizes, do contact your dietitian.)
Prevention is always better than cure and this is true even for the matters of the heart! Why wait for heart problems to crop up and then change your diet? By eating healthy now, you may be able to prevent/avoid heart diseases in the future.
For those interested in getting a personalized diet chart-check out the Healthy Heart Packages or simply fill out the ‘Contact Us’ page