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Heart This Food

Five foods to keep your ticker healthy

Prerna Singh Butalia  

The American Heart Association says that diet is the cornerstone of cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment. "The guidelines for a heart-healthy diet are simple: keep it high-fibre, antioxidant-rich, low-sodium and low-cholesterol; crank up the potassium; avoid trans fats and limit packaged foods. Those with markers of poor cardiac health need to take special care to ensure their diet is rich in omega-3 fats and fibre," says Dr Anil Sharma, interventional cardiologist, Lilavati Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai. Enrich your diet with these five foods that love your heart.

Garlic
Rx Effect: Reduces blood pressure and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up)
Allicin, a chemical found in freshly crushed garlic, has anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive properties and prevents clotting. A 2016 Journal of Nutrition study revealed that garlic supplements could regulate slightly elevated cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.

Walnuts and almonds
Rx Effect: Reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and fatal arrhythmias
Polyunsaturated fats or good fats can take the credit for the favourable reputation of these nuts. They help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Bursting with omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamin E and folate, almonds and walnuts reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. The plant sterols in these nuts encourage the liver to make less 'bad' LDL and more 'good' HDL (high-density lipoproteins). A study by the Imperial College London found that eating a handful of nuts (about 20 g) a day could cut the risk of heart disease by 30 per cent, cancer by 15 per cent and diabetes by 40 per cent.

Healthy oils
Rx Effect: Healthy cholesterol levels
Use a combination of polyunsatu-rated fatty acids (PUFAs), like sun-flower oil or safflower oil; and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), like rice bran oil, sesame oil, groundnut oil, mustard oil and extra-virgin olive oil. MUFAs and PUFAs help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
 "Limit oil intake to 15 ml a day. If you are using two types of oil, as recommended for cardiac health, use 75 per cent of sesame oil and 25 per cent of sunflower oil. Keep them separate and use for different dishes," says Dharini Krishnan, Chennai-based nutritionist.


Oats and millets
Rx Effect: Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
High-fibre wholegrains help regulate cholesterol, insulin and triglyceride levels. An analysis of seven major studies showed that people who ate 2.5 or more servings of wholegrains daily were 21 per cent less likely to suffer from cardiac complications, as compared to those who ate less than two servings a week. Oats and millets are also rich in potassium, a vasodilator [dilates blood vessels, reducing blood pressure].  "Eat 20-30 g of fibre daily. Use whole pulses while cooking and add fenugreek seeds to curries as they have a positive impact on cholesterol," says Krishnan.

Fish
Rx Effect: Lowers triglycerides, raises HDL
Omega-3, found in fish, prevents clots and regulates cholesterol and fats in blood. "Omega fats lower triglyceride levels and 'bad' cholesterol. It works on the conversion of LDL and helps the body flush it," says Sharma. Krishnan recommends rohu, surmai (king fish) and hilsa to reduce exposure to fish contaminated with heavy metals and advises, "Consume 100 g of fish twice a week to meet your nutritional needs."

With inputs by Gagan Dhillon  

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