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March 20, 2012
These Foods Can Save Your Heart


Increased weight is a determinant of higher levels of triglycerides, elevated LDL (commonly known as bad cholesterol) and low HDL (commonly known as good cholesterol). The good news, however, is that even a slight reduction in weight (5-10 per cent) can reduce a person's risk of heart disease. Healthier food choices and increased physical activity are the easiest ways to reduce weight and the risk of heart disease.

The World Health Organization defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. The most common health consequence of being overweight or obese is cardiovascular disease - mainly heart disease and stroke. The more overweight a person is the more likely he/she is to develop heart disease.

DOs

Fruits and vegetables - They are a great source of fibre, that helps increase satiety and reduce cholesterol levels. Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, berries, oranges, papaya, etc. as they are rich in antioxidants.

Whole grains - Include products like spelt pasta, brown rice, oats, ragi, jowar, bajra and quinoa.

Legumes - Sprouts, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc. are a great source of soluble fibre, which helps reduce cholesterol.

Nuts and seeds - Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help increase good cholesterol.

Flaxseeds - A great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, a sprinkle of this on one's breakfast cereal can help improve cholesterol profile.

Fatty fish - Especially Wild Alaskan Salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids that help increase good cholesterol.

Tea - Green tea especially helps lower total cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Physical Activity - Include a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes of moderate physical activity daily - brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling etc to increase energy expenditure and therefore help in weight reduction.

DON'Ts

Refined cereals - Maida, white breads, pasta should be cut out from one's diet completely and replaced with whole grain or multigrain varieties.

Saturated fatty acids - Avoid intake of full cream dairy products like whole milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, cream and coconut as they increase levels of bad cholesterol.

Processed and packaged foods - Avoid biscuits, chips, cakes and pastries as they contain high levels of saturated and trans-fatty acids, in addition to higher content of sodium.

Fatty meats - Avoid intake of fatty meats like mutton and beef, have skinless chicken and fish instead.

Fried and deep fried foods - Avoid junk foods like pizzas, burgers, fries and other deep-fried snacks. Deep fried foods contain trans-fats, which increases one's risk of arthrosclerosis clogging of arteries.

Smoking - Smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis - a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries, which could lead to angina pectoris or heart attacks.

In a nutshell, reducing intake of calories, especially calories from fats, regular physical activity together with the inclusion of heart healthy foods can help to reduce weight and eventually the risk of developing heart disease.

Dr Muffazal Lakdawala is a bariatic surgeon and author.


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