Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women worldwide. An unhealthy heart can take a toll on your body and can further lead to several health problems. Some of the medical conditions include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease or cardiac arrest. Therefore, it becomes very important to keep your heart healthy and fit. For a healthy heart, one must keep a constant check on their diet and the physical activity included in their daily routine. The two main things responsible for a healthy heart is nourishing diet and regular physical activity.
When we talk of a healthy diet for heart, Mediterranean diet can be said to be beneficial for the heart. Mediterranean diet is a diet which is rich in fruits and vegetables, oily fish, such as tuna, cod, trout, salmon and sardines and wholegrain cereals. It also includes little amounts of meat and low-fat dairy. But meat does not mean processed and packaged meat like salamis, hot dogs and sausages. However, lean cuts of meat can be eaten in moderation.
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According to the Delhi based nutritionist Monisha Ashokan, “The Mediterranean diet that comprises of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts with moderate level of protein has numerous health benefits. The diet helps in weight loss but one major benefit that the diet has is that it helps with a healthy heart. Fruits and vegetables consumed are full of anti oxidants which help in keeping the body healthy. Fruits and vegetables are also a source of fibre with plays an important role in reducing cholesterol and in the prevention of heart diseases. It emphasizes on omega 3 rich foods like olive oil, fish, nuts and legumes that are cardio protective. So if you want a healthy body and heart it’s time to start the Mediterranean diet.”
Instead of relying on meat for proteins, you can get adequate protein by including more fatty fish in your diet as well as eggs, legumes, nuts, beans and pulses. You should also cut down on the foods that provide a lot of saturated fat in your diet such as dairy products and butter, ghee, lard, beef and pork. Instead, focus more on vegetable oils, which provide unsaturated fat, the most famously used one in the Mediterranean being olive oil. Another cooking oil that can be used are sunflower oil, hemp seed oil, palm oil and coconut oil.
Another advantage of this heart-friendly diet is monounsaturated fats such as olive oil instead of saturated fats such as butter. The Mediterranean diet, which primarily includes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, is good for your overall health; brain and even your bones. It includes some of the healthy fats like olive oil and nuts which can prove to be beneficial for the heart.
While following a Mediterranean diet you tend to eliminate starchy carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and pasta which are unhealthy for the overall health and heart. Instead this gets replaced with plenty of fruit, vegetables and salads, including tomatoes, berries, guavas, apples and some leafy vegetables which offer numerous benefits.
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The diet eliminates all the fats that are unhealthy for you. In fact, olive oil and other unsaturated fats are an important part of this heart-healthy diet. You can use this oil for baking, stir-frying, grilling and even use it as a dressing on top of your salads.
If you are looking for some healthy snacks, a handful of heart healthy nuts like walnuts or almonds will be really beneficial. They are rich in healthy fats and proteins. Also, they will keep you full between the meals and supply you with even more healthy unsaturated fat. But make sure that you avoid heavily salted or sweetened nut varieties.
Also the Mediterranean diet emphasizes on “whole” foods like cheese, yogurt, legumes, fish, grapes, and chicken. Foods should be as unadulterated as possible. This means minimum amounts of salt, sugar and other chemicals should be added. Ideally, fruits and vegetables should always be on your plate.
Foods like cookies, crackers, potato chips, burgers, pizzas and other heavily processed packaged foods on the grocery store shelf should be avoided. Apart from the healthy diet some sort of regular physical activity is also essential for a healthy heart.
(Monisha Ashokan is a nutritionist at Nourish Me)
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.