Super Foods for the Heart
With heart diseases becoming more common among Nepalese, it is important to modify our daily diet by including heart-healthy foods.
These days most of us live sedentary lives and are exposed to easily available highly fattening processed food products, which make us susceptible to many heart diseases and obesity this condition is further exacerbated by the effects of age and genetics. If you are worried about heart disease, one the most important things you can do is to eat a heart-healthy diet. Nutritionists, Ratika Tamang and Isha Shrestha from Nepal Medicity, introduced me to the different heart-healthy foods mentioned below and explained to me their benefits.
Fruits, vegetables and berries—pick the brightly colored ones
Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and are low in fat and calories—making them heart healthy food choices. You need to pick the ones that are colorful. Such fruits, vegetables and berries contain phytochemicals, which are natural compounds that give them their color. Phytochemicals act as antioxidants, which fight against free radicals in our body, and a diet rich in them are known to reduce cardiovascular diseases.
The next time you visit the market pick fruits and vegetables that are colorful. Apples, carrots and tomatoes are found yearlong and are relatively cheap. Other fruits and vegetables such as pomegranates, papaya, strawberry and sweet potato are also filled with vitamins and fibers that help the heart.
But there are also a few green vegetables that are good for your heart. Adding some broccoli and spinach in your sandwich makes a great heart healthy snack.
It is recommended to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but that could prove to be difficult for people following Nepali diet. They are advised to include at least two to three fruits or vegetables in their daily diet and keep them changing according to season.”
Flax seeds (aalas)
Flax seeds are available cheaply in the market yet people are unaware of their benefits and do not add them to their diet. Rich in Omega-3-fatty acids (unsaturated fat that is good for the heart), fibres and low on calories—flax seeds are new becoming quite popular. You can prepare roasted flax seed powder and add one tablespoon either in your water, smoothies or pickles and consume that daily.
Having a handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachio not only fills your hungry stomach, but also helps the heart with their unsaturated fats and fibers.
Although not preferred by many, soy products such as tofu have high fiber contents, and antioxidants that support a healthy heart. In addition to that, tofu is also a good source of protein — especially for vegetarians.
Fish oils from trout, salmon, tuna and mackerel contain Omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat is unsaturated and helps lower heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. Our body cannot make Omega-3 fatty acids—you either get them by eating fish or taking supplements in the form of capsules.
While too much alcohol can have harmful effects on your body, many doctors agree that red wine is good for the heart. It has the antioxidant resveratrol, which has heart healthy benefits. But why go for alcohol as an option, when you have so many other options. Try grapes or peanut butter—they too have resveratrol. But if you prefer to drink, one drink a day is said to be good for the heart. But of course don’t forget about high calorie contents in alcohols. Among red wines, some wines are relatively better than other wines. A glass of pinot noir has only 121 calories, and it has higher amounts of resveratrol than any other red wine. Medium bodied wines such as Merlot are made from blue-colored grapes, and red wines such as Cabernet with dry flavor have higher amounts of antioxidants that promote healthy heart.
How much fat is too much fat?
There is a common misconception among the general population today. As people become more health conscious, they completely avoid fats without knowing the importance of fats in our body. Fat intake should be 25-35% of total calorie intake, and this should include more unsaturated fats and less saturated and trans fats. Vegetable oils, with an exception of coconut oil are unsaturated fat or good fat, while animal fat products are saturated fat or bad fat. Many brands of vegetable oil available in the market refer to themselves as cholesterol free. This can often be misleading as most oils extracted from a vegetable source are cholesterol free. But all in all, one gram of oil can give you around nine kilocalories. So if you take in more oil than what your body needs, then even good fat becomes bad fat.
Staple Nepali food: how heart-healthy is it?
Generally, the common trend among the Nepalese is to take a larger serving of rice in comparison to curry, cooked vegetables and salad. It is a balanced diet no doubt, but we must modify this diet if we want it to be more heart-healthy. One way to modify is to lessen our rice intake, and consume more boiled vegetables, instead fried ones. We should also lower our salt intake, as it is closely related to high cholesterol levels.