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    Home  >  blog   >  Protect Your Heart: Make Smart Food Choices

    Protect Your Heart: Make Smart Food Choices

    The World Heart Month is here! It is a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health.

    Heart Disease is the number one cause of death worldwide accounting for 31% of the total deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    In the UAE, heart diseases has become the top cause of deaths in the past 2 years, stated the Medical Journal, The Lancet.

    In 2015, ischemic heart diseases accounted for nearly 21.6% of annual deaths in the UAEbased on the new Global Burden of Disease, Infections and Risks (GBD) study.

    Overeating, lack of exercise, unhealthy diets and high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are all factors which can trigger heart disease and stroke and threaten our own lives, and those of our loved ones.

    So let the journey to a heart healthy life starts NOW!

    In today’s blog, you will learn how making smart food choices can protect your heart and blood vessels.

    Food to choose more often

    Eat more whole grains:

    • Try to eat whole-grain versions of breads, cereals, crackers, pasta, and other grains at least half of the time.
    • Have brown rice, whole wheat couscous, or quinoa instead of white rice.
    • Check the ingredient list when buying grains and make sure the first ingredient listed is whole grain.

    Eat more beans, lentils and plant based proteins:

    • Eat twice a week a meal based on plant proteins such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans.

    Eat more vegetables and fruits:

    • Eat at least one vegetable or a salad at lunch and dinner. Snack on raw vegetables.
    • Try new ways of cooking vegetables, such as steaming, stir-frying, or roasting.
    • Eat dark green and dark yellow vegetables every day, such as broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, squash, and peppers.
    • Choose fruit for dessert or when you crave something sweet.

    Eat more fish:

    • Have fish 2 to 3 times a week.
    • Choose canned fish in water instead of in vegetable oils

    Eat food with omega-3 fats:

    • Add flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts to your morning cereal.
    • Use canola oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, or walnut oil.
    • Eat fish high in omega-3, including salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, and sardines.

    Choose heart-healthy fats:

    • Choose the fats that can help you lower your cholesterol. Keep in mind that all fats are high in calories, so if you are trying to lose weight keep your servings small.
    • Cook with healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower, and safflower oil.
    • Have a handful of raw or roasted low-salt nuts for a snack several times a week.
    • Incorporate in your daily meals, some seeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. You could add them in your yoghurt for breakfast, or sprinkle them on your salad, or have them as part of your raw nuts as snacks.

    Food to cut back on

    For the past years, eating fat was considered the major cause of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke. We were taught to worry about the fat content in the food we eat, and limit our fat intake to the minimum in order to be healthy and reduce the risks of heart diseases.

    However, new research done in 2016 and 2017 are proving that people on a low fat diet tend to be at higher risks of being overweight, obese, having high blood glucose levels, and are at same risks of having cardiovascular diseases compared to people adopting a diet rich in dietary fat.

    According to the newest research done by the international PURE study released in August 2017, excess carbohydrates, and eating a diet rich in processed and highly refined foods loaded with starch, sugar, salt, and/or trans-fats, should be our major concern.

    Eat less frequently  foods high in saturated fat:

    • Choose lean meat such as ground beef with 7% fat instead of 15%, poultry without skin, and chicken breasts instead of thighs, pork tenderloin, beef round, chuck roast, or rib roast.
    • Choose meat substitutes such as beans or veggie burgers more often.
    • Opt for low fat milk and dairy products such as low fat yoghurt, low fat cheese, white cheeses instead of yellow cured cheeses and processed cheeses. Try using skimmed milk and reduced fat cooking cream.
    • Eat less butter, lard, ice cream, whole milk based products.

    Eat less frequently high-cholesterol foods:

    • Limit your intake of egg yolk to 2-3 per week.
    • Cut back on organ meat such as liver, high-fat dairy products, and high-fat meat and poultry.
    • Choose packaged foods with little or no cholesterol by checking the Nutrition Facts and the list of ingredients on food labels.

    Cut back on foods with trans fat:

    • Check food labels and avoid trans fat whenever you can.
    • Watch out for ready to eat, processed food that list trans fat, hydrogenated oil, or partially hydrogenated oil on the labels.
    • Limit your intake of both butter and margarine.
    • Replace stick margarine with liquid margarine containing 0 grams trans fat or with a cholesterol-lowering margarine rich in plant sterol esters that keep cholesterol from being absorbed.

    Cook using low-fat methods:

    • Avoid frying and deep frying.
    • Use nonstick pans and use heart-healthy oils for cooking.
    • Broil, boiled, bake, roast, steam, or grill foods.

    Cut back on sodium:

    • Avoid salty foods like salted nuts, crackers, canned foods and processed foods.
    • Check food labels for sodium content. Choose low sodium foods defined as 140mg of sodium per serving. Avoid items with 400mg or more of sodium.
    • Eat out less.
    • Add less salt to your food
    • Use herbs, spices, or lemon juice instead of salt for seasoning.

    Modern scientific evidence provides strong support on what makes a heart healthy diet. Emphasizing on minimally refined whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy fats, and cutting back on refined carbohydrates, sugars, and highly processed food rich in trans-fat is what we should be focusing on said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., from the School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

    Making smart food choices helps you lose weight, keep your blood glucose levels on target and protects you heart.

    In our new post next week, I will be talking about choosing healthy fats which have protective effects on our heart and blood vessels.

    Until then, keep in mind that small changes can make a powerful difference.

    So don’t wait any longer, start being a better version of yourself!