Food and the Heart: Are We Eating Right?

Posted On Nov 14, 2022

Dr. Maneesh Rai

Consultant - Cardiac Electrophysiologist

KMC Hospitals–Mangalore

Cardiology hospital in Mangalore

In India, coronary artery disease (CAD) is no longer a disease of the elderly. Indians with CAD are at least a decade younger than their western counterparts. Although not conclusively proven, diet may also be contributing to the growing problem. So the question remains: Are we eating right? Let us explain...

The food that we consume finally breaks down into its nutritional value. involving the number of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, minerals, and vitamins it supplies to the body. A wholesome, healthy diet needs to contain a good combination of all nutrients, including carbohydrates and fats. The problem is that the food sources from which we get our requirements of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat may not be healthy. 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates may be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars that are absorbed easily and provide instant energy. Simple sugars produce rapid fluctuations in insulin levels, are rapidly metabolized, and make you feel hungry again. Excessive intake of simple carbohydrates can result in obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Complex carbohydrates have a more stable release of insulin and are a more desirable source of energy. Complex carbohydrates like starch and fiber also add bulk, or "roughage," and are good for the digestive tract. Unfortunately, most of our dietary requirements for carbs come from simple sugars and refined or processed carbs like white bread, white rice, and other refined grains and cereals. Refinement makes them simpler to digest but robs them of their nutrients, like vitamins and fiber. As always, it is a good idea to restrict the consumption of refined carbs and stick to brown bread, parboiled rice, whole grains, etc. To know more, visit our cardiology hospital in Mangalore.

Proteins

Protein sources in the diet may be plant-based, fish-based, or meat-based. While animal protein is a rich source of protein, it is also rich in saturated fats, which can increase cholesterol levels in the body. Low-fat proteins are found in pulses, soya beans, fish, and skinless poultry. They should be preferred over animal protein (red meat), which is rich in saturated fats. Limit red meat consumption to once or twice a week. 

Fats

Saturated fats that are present in butter, ghee, cream, etc. should be restricted as they can increase the build-up of bad cholesterol in the blood. Among the oils, coconut and palm oil have higher proportions of saturated fats and are not desirable. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart. They reduced LDL, or bad cholesterol, and also triglycerides. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFA, have been proven to be cardio-protective. Fish is a good source of PUFA. Among vegetable and nut oils, like sunflower, safflower, mustard, etc., are rich sources of PUFA and should be preferred.

"Trans-fat" is the worst fat for the body. They are produced by "hydrogenation," a process where vegetable oils are converted to solids to increase shelf life. It also makes it inexpensive. The best examples of hydrogenated oils include Vansapathi and Dalda. Trans-fats are found in most bakery items, such as cookies, biscuits, and deep-fried items. Reheating oils also increases the trans-fat content. The trans-fat content in packaged foods like cookies, chips, and biscuits is mentioned on the food label. Foods with high trans-fat or hydrogenated fat content should be avoided. Removing or reducing trans-fat from the diet is one of the most effective ways of ensuring a healthy heart. Consult with our cardiologists in Mangalore to know more about the treatment.

Dietary tips for a healthy heart

  1. Portion control—we eat far more than our bodies require. Excess calories result in weight gain, obesity, and its undesirable effects. Use a small plate to reduce the portion size.

  2. Stay away from simple sugars and refined carbohydrates.

  3. Add fibre to your diet.

  4. Substitute meals with animal proteins with meals with plant proteins.

  5. Reduce your consumption of saturated fats by eating less cream, butter, and meat. For cooking, use vegetable oils rich in PUFA.

  6. Say no to trans fats!

  7. Include plenty of vegetables in the diet—the more color on the plate, the better.

  8. Say yes to fruits! -Have at least 5 servings of fruit each day.

  9. Reduce salt in the diet.

  10. Let alcohol be an occasional indulgence.

Dr. Maneesh Rai

Consultant - Cardiac Electrophysiologist

KMC Hospital, Mangalore

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