Simple Diet Changes for a Stronger Heart

Dr Varun Bansal, Consultant - Cardiology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals
Dr Varun Bansal, Consultant - Cardiology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals

Heart-Healthy Eating: Simple Diet Changes for a Stronger Cardiovascular System

The most common question in everyone’s minds these days is what to eat to keep heart healthy. Although many of us would already know, but below are a few changes all of us can make in our daily diet to make it food for a healthy heart.

  1. The first and most important step is to control the portion size. In case anyone is trying to reduce body weight, or even trying to maintain, it is essential to control the portion size. During festivals and family get-togethers feeding large portions is a way of expressing love. Even after prolonged fasting, due to hunger, all of us tend to eat fast and large portions.

Simple tips to prevent sudden surge in blood sugar levels, to control body weight and to keep heart protected are:

  1. Starting the meal with salads
  2. Have plenty of liquids during the festivals and during fasts
  3. Using small plate or bowl to serve food for yourself
  4. Eating slow to enjoy the taste of food and to avoid eating large portions
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibres. If fruits and vegetables are eaten before meals in salads, they also help cut calorie intake by limiting carbohydrates and fats in the meal. They also provide option of a healthy snack in between meals and prevent unhealthy snacks intake. Simple tips to include more fruits and vegetables in diet are:
    1. Eating raw or boiled vegetables before meals and also including them in main course
    2. Having fruits in-between meals and avoid high calorie snacks
    3. Avoiding canned fruits and vegetables which have been preserved in sugary or salty syrup
    4. Finding ways to include fruits and vegetables in daily food and making them delicious by healthy recipes
  6. Eat whole grains and foods and avoid processed foods: Whole grains are rich source of fibre and nutrients. They contain complex carbohydrates which are good for cardiovascular health. Whole grains can be easily made substitute of refined grain products by including them in cooking and food habits like preparing vegetable rich dalia, quinoa salad or barley khichdi. A few easy steps and small efforts can make our meal a lot healthier. A few things to keep in mind are:
    1. Include whole grains and avoid refined grains
    2. Avoid too much intake of products made of refined flour link biscuits, cakes, high fat snacks, quick breads
    3. Whole grains can also be included in daily meals by adding them to porridge and can also be used as individual snacks between the meals
  7. Limit salt and sugar intake: Excessive salt intake can lead to hypertension and increases risk of cardiovascular diseases. Similarly excessive sugar intake may lead to diabetes mellitus which in-turn causes increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and complications. Adding a few and avoiding a few other food products in diet can help a person maintain adequate nutrition balance.
    1. Avoid adding salt to salads and curds served on the table.
    2. It is better to avoid flavouring condiments to food like mayonnaise, pickles, extra spices or ketchup.
    3. Addition of salads along with soups as appetizers leads to decreased intake of soups which might be high on spices and low on fiber.
    4. It is better to avoid canned foods preserved in sugary/salty syrups.
    5. Intake of sugary desserts must be limited, and one must be watchful of eating high salt or high sugar foods often.
  8. Limit too many carbohydrates and fats in diet; adequate protein intake is important: Excessive intake of carbohydrates leads to their storage in the body in the form of glycogen and fat. Excessive fat in the body gets deposited in various organs of the body including liver and blood vessels in the form of atherosclerotic plaques which might lead to cardiovascular diseases and might also lead to complications. A few watchful steps in the diet can help reduce amount of carbohydrates and fats:
    1. Replace carbohydrate rich food with protein rich food.
    2. Avoid too much intake of cookies, chips and add protein foods like nuts, soy products, cottage cheese, legumes in diet.
    3. Avoid fried meat and include roasted meat or fish if you eat vegetarian food.
    4. Eggs can easily supplement cheese and high calorie foods in sandwiches.
    5. Increasing legumes, soybeans, eggs and lean meat can help decrease the intake of high calorie foods.
  9. Plan your meals: Planning meals is as important as eating them. A random meal rich in carbohydrates and fats after prolonged fasting might hurt the body more than a properly planned and balanced diet. Similarly, while travelling, it is always better to carry nuts, fruits and vegetables or home cooked food to avoid eating food rich in fat and devoid of nutrients. It is important to watch our plate for a few moments before we start eating.
  10. Partying doesn’t harm – conditions applied: It is important to party; it is part of our life. Indulgence once in a while is not going to completely damage your health or heart. If one is aware and watchful of the diet habits, he or she will eventually balance the indulgence with a healthy meal plan in subsequent days; but overindulgence can be harmful over a prolonged period of time and must be avoided.

Through a few simple tips and tricks by managing food products, food habits, and watching over body weight and fitness, one can easily avoid and delay the cardiovascular diseases and the complications which might occur.

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