When it comes to heart health, most people swing into action when a blood test result brings worrisome news, but that approach is short sighted. If you really want to make a difference to your heart health and increase your stamina, you have to think ahead, especially when it comes to your diet.
Eating healthy has to become second nature to you, just like eating three main meals a day, and certain superfoods must be incorporated in your weekly menu to keep your heart healthy and strong. Foods that contain unsaturated fats like Omega-3 and soluble fiber are especially good for heart health. Omega-3 is a unsaturated fatty acid that reverses plaque buildup in the arteries and reduces levels of triglycerides (a form of fat) stored in the body. Soluble fiber, found in ingredients like oats, attaches to cholesterol particles and takes them out of the body, helping to reduce overall cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease
For better heart health, make sure these 10 superfoods are on the menu:
Salmon and Bassa, both easily available in India, are your best options as they are high in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. To put it simply, they contain good fat to beat bad cholesterol.
While fish may be good for your health, a lot depends on how it’s prepared. Obviously, you shouldn’t deep-fry it. Given your daily oil consumption should not exceed four teaspoons, I’d recommend you grill or steam the fish slightly before using a drop of oil to sauté it on a pan.
Daily requirement: 1 piece per serving
Pumpkin, chia and flax seeds are all high in Omega 3 and fiber. You can mix and dry roast the seeds and store them in an airtight box and munch on them at any time of the day. You can also powder the seeds and mix them in your chapati atta.
Daily requirement: 2 tbsp of mixed seeds
Walnuts and almonds both lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, as they contain ‘good fat’ that helps reduce plaque buildup in coronary arteries.
Daily requirement: 5 whole walnuts, and about 5-6 almonds, but that can vary according to your BMI
Indian cuisine, based on Ayurvedic diet principles, incorporates several ingredients that are considered super foods today and spices are one of them. Cumin (jeera) contains a variety of beneficial compounds, like essential fatty acids, polyphenols and flavonoids that keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the healthy range. Coriander (dhania) has several acids that are effective in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. It also helps raise levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL).
Daily requirement: Can be used to temper/season food
It contains a chemical compound called Allicin and antioxidants that help lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. For best results, it should be freshly crushed and eaten raw on an empty stomach. Raw garlic generates a small amount of hydrogen sulphide, which protects the heart.
Daily requirement: 2 cloves a day
Spinach is both high fiber and rich in potassium and magnesium, which work to lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. To retain its nutritional value, be sure not to overcook it.
Daily requirement: 1 cup
Full of Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, potassium and soluble fiber, oats can lower LDL levels and help keep arteries clear.
Daily requirement: 4-5 tsp of uncooked oats (approximately 30 gm)
A balanced source of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, curd has several health benefits. It’s full of potassium and probiotics that help lower blood pressure and cholesterol respectively.
Daily requirement: 1 cup
Low in saturated fat and made up of good-quality protein, soy is a good substitute for foods that are high in saturated fats, like meat and cheese. It can be added to curries, sautéed, lightly steamed as chaat or even powdered and mixed with your chapati atta.
Daily requirement: Quarter cup raw chunks or 50 gm raw beans
Antioxidants known as catechins found in green tea help slow the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.
Daily requirement: 2 cups
While these foods help boost heart health, to protect yourself from heart disease you need to take good care of your overall health. Everything is interconnected – for instance, if your weight goes up, it can affect your heart regardless of whether you are predisposed to heart problems or suffer from high cholesterol. So it’s important to follow a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Remember, it’s never too late to start – and if you have children at home, start inculcating healthy habits in them at a young age.