With Cardiovascular diseases on the rise, India is said to become the ‘heart disease capital of the world’ in the coming years. As most of us lead sedentary lifestyles—one of the biggest factors behind heart ailments—knowing what can be done to ward off the threat of cardiovascular diseases, and protecting from debilitating conditions like heart attacks and strokes is absolutely essential.

When it comes to keeping your heart in good shape, it’s always a good idea to start by focusing on your food habits. Along with physical exercise and adequate rest (good sleep), diet is a key component in ensuring the adoption of a heart healthy lifestyle. Here’s how you can protect yourself from cardiovascular ailments.

Include fiber-rich foods in your diet

Fiber is known to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of stroke and help in weight loss which is why dieticians recommend that you include a healthy amount of fiber-rich foods in your diet. Examples of fiber-rich foods include whole cereals like oats, brown rice and millets, lentils (which contain soluble fiber) and vegetables (especially those with skin like brinjal and ladyfinger). However, remember to eat all these foods in moderation. No more than 4-5 servings of whole cereals and 2-3 servings of vegetables per day is recommended for a heart healthy diet.

Eat low fat dairy products

Low fat dairy products like skimmed milk and curd are beneficial for the heart since they contain nutrients like potassium and calcium which help lower blood pressure. Try and include 400 ml of dairy products in your diet during the day—this will keep your heart healthy and robust.

Eat low fat dairy products

Munch on fruits

Fruits contain fiber which helps lower cholesterol and minimizes the risk of stroke, while antioxidants present in fruits protect the body from free radicals that lead to cell damage resulting in diseases like heart ailments, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Eating 1-2 fruits per day helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases while also doubling up as a healthy snacking option to help you control those hunger pangs in between meals.

Replace junk foods with healthy snacks

Avoid junk food like namkeens, samosas and packaged stuff since they contain sodium which triggers high blood pressure. Instead, try replacing them with snacks like fruits and nuts which are not only nutritious but also easy to carry around and don’t need any preparation time. While any fruit is good for health in moderation, when it comes to nuts – walnuts, almonds and pistachios are especially beneficial for the heart since they contain monounsaturated fatty acids which reduces bad cholesterol levels and protects you against heart disease and stroke.

Have a few pieces of dark chocolate daily

This should come as a pleasant surprise—dark chocolate contains antioxidants which limit cell damage from free radicals, thus protecting you against heart disease among other ailments. Dark chocolate also boosts blood circulation and prevents clotting. Eat 20 grams of dark chocolate (4 pieces) daily help keep your heart healthy and your taste buds appeased.

A heart healthy diet incorporates at least three meals a day and advocates everything in moderation. Stick to the principles of the healthy by consuming a balanced and nutritious diet. Switch to a heart healthy diet now—it will reap large dividends by protecting you from chronic heart conditions and help you feel fit and agile both physically and mentally.    

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Written by Sumita Thomas

Sumita Thomas

For Sumita Thomas, good nutrition advice is less about what NOT to eat and all about HOW to eat. Armed with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from IGNOU, Sumita has worked with multi-specialty clinics and corporate clients, planning calorie-specific menus for their cafeterias. She’s also a certified diabetes educator, has worked in cardiac nutrition and is even a TUV-certified internal auditor for food safety management systems. Maybe that’s why she ensures her advice is always scientifically sound, which makes her a perfect fit for us at HealthifyMe. Of the belief that a healthy lifestyle can be achieved with the combination of a healthy mind, body and diet, Sumita recommends setting realistic goals – one health target a day – and gradually incorporating healthy ingredients to your daily diet. Does she practice what she preaches? For sure, and ensures all those around her do too. So get set, because that now includes you!

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