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Heart diseases account for nearly one-third of deaths worldwide. It is the leading killer for men and women. When diagnosed with heart disease can lead to an emotional toll affecting all aspects of life. Perhaps being physically active and keeping weight under control is very important for heart health but the foods we eat matters a lot. In fact, most heart diseases can be avoided by following a heart-healthy diet. In our previous blog, we have discussed about cardiovascular diseases Now let's talk about strategies that help in improving heart health.
When it comes to heart health we think of drastically cutting down on fats. But remember not all fats are bad. Instead of cutting down on all fats replacing them with healthy fats is the key to a healthy heart. The first step in modifying the fats in the diet is avoiding trans fats. These fats are found in deep-fried and processed foods. Consuming such fats not only increases bad cholesterol and increases the risk of heart diseases but also reduces the level of HDL or good cholesterol thereby affecting heart health.
Saturated fats contribute to major fats in our diet and are commonly found in oils such as palm oil and coconut oil, dairy products like butter, cheese, and red meats. These fats are solids at room temperature. WHO and US Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting the intake of saturated fat to less than 10% of the daily calorie intake. With the HINT app, you can check the intake of saturated fats by regularly logging the food and checking the diet summary. Alternatively, you can go to the recipe section of the HINT app and check the recipes which are low and high in saturated fats. Also, replacing processed and unprocessed red meats with seafood, lean poultry, and nuts are associated with a reduction in CHD1.
We all must have heard about healthy fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in various foods. These fats are cardioprotective and are found in foods such as almonds, walnuts, fish, and seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds. In one study it was found that eating nuts such as almonds regularly increases good cholesterol and reduces the buildup of plaque and clears the arteries2.
While including good fats in your diet is a good idea to keep your heart healthy, keeping a check on your carbohydrate intake is also very important. Instead of piling up on refined carbohydrates such as refined flour, bread, pasta switching to complex carbohydrates found in whole grains such as brown rice, barley, millets will be helpful. Complex carbohydrates are foods that are rich in fiber ,vitamins and minerals. Refined carbohydrates are foods that have been stripped of all bran, fibre, and other nutrients.They get digested quickly and causes as spike in blood sugar levels. Excessive intake of refined carbohydrates leads to fat accumulation and increases the risk of heart diseases.
The inclusion of foods high in fibre works wonders for a healthy heart. Fibre acts as a sponge to our body which will absorb excess fat and cholesterol and remove it through the system. Also, fibre stays in the stomach for a longer time and promotes satiety thereby aiding in weight loss which is very beneficial for the proper functioning of the heart.
Fibre is of two types and both of them are important for health. Soluble fibre is found in foods like fruit, oats, beans, and barley. When it dissolves in water it forms a gel-like substance.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is found in foods like wholemeal bread, wheat bran, vegetables, and nuts. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools by absorbing water and helps to keep you regular. It is important to increase your fluid intake as you increase fibre3.
Confused about how to increase fibre rich foods in your diet? Don't worry with the HINT app it's seamless. Just go to the recipe section of the app and click on foods high in fibre. Include them as part of your daily meals and keep high cholesterol levels at bay!
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Bernstein A.M., Sun Q., Hu F.B., Stampfer M.J., Manson J.E., Willett W.C. Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Circulation. 2010;122(9):876�883.
Jamshed H, Sultan FA, Iqbal R, Gilani AH. Dietary Almonds Increase Serum HDL Cholesterol in Coronary Artery Disease Patients in a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2015 Oct;145(10):2287-92
Dhingra D, Michael M, Rajput H, Patil RT. Dietary fibre in foods: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2012;49(3):255-266.