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Here are the 10 best and worst foods for your cardiovascular health

A balanced diet consisting of a variety of healthful foods will boost your overall health and well-being. Here we list some of the best and worst foods you can eat for your heart health.

New Delhi: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide for both men and women. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), CVDs claim an estimated 17.9 million lives each year – which about 31 per cent of all deaths. Cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease and other conditions. Most heart disease can be prevented with lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake and stress, maintaining a healthy weight, etc. World Heart Day, celebrated on September 29 every year, encourages people to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Diet and your heart

Diet and exercise play a key role in maintaining the health of the cardiovascular system. While exercise improves circulation and keeps you fit, a good diet helps keep the arteries unclogged and protect them from damage. In fact, the importance of good nutrition on your heart health can’t be overlooked. A balanced diet consisting of a variety of healthful foods will boost your overall health and well-being. However, there are certain foods that can significantly promote your heart health, while others can harm it.

And, if you’re concerned about your heart, you’ll want to know the difference and adopt a heart-healthy diet. Dr Ashwin Madhukar, senior cardiologist at Apollo TeleHealth, shares a few of the best and worst foods for your heart:

Best and worst foods for your heart

Here’s what you should and shouldn’t be eating to maintain a healthy heart:

Say ‘Yes’ to

  1. Fatty fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids that can help ward off inflammation. While you can also get omega-3 fats from plant-based sources like flax seeds, your body will have to convert them from alpha-linolenic acid.
  2. Rainbow diet: Include fruits and vegetables from all the colours of the spectrum in your diet. Phytochemicals, which are vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that prevent free radical damage to the arteries, impart colour to food. Each colour contributes to a different nutrient. The aim is to keep meals as colourful as possible.
  3. Mixed nuts: Nuts are dense in nutrients and rich in fibre, protein and polyunsaturated fats. They promote satiety and make it easier for you to avoid processed snacks or junk food, both of which are high in unhealthy refined carbohydrates.
  4. Extra virgin olive oil: It is rich in monosaturated fats which help lower the level of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. It is also rich in antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage to the cells, keeping your arteries free from fatty deposits and plaques.
  5. Barley: This is a good source of soluble fibre, which binds to cholesterol and prevents fat buildup. It also reduces the production of cholesterol in the liver, which also helps to keep the lipid levels in control. Beans are a good non-grain source of soluble fibre.

Say ‘No’ to

  1. Fried foods: Fried foods are linked to increased heart disease risk. Conventional methods of frying create trans fats that raise the level of bad cholesterol and lower the level of good cholesterol.
  2. Soft drinks: For most people, the largest source of added sugar in their diets is not food but beverages. It contributes to inflammation, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
  3. Processed meats: Processed meats contain a lot of saturated fat, and even the low fat options tend to have contain a lot of salt. Excess sodium pushed up your blood pressure, putting your heart at risk.
  4. Fast food: Fast food is associated with saturated fat and a high level of carbohydrates, which have an adverse effect on heart health. They are also associated with unhealthy weight gain and unsuccessful weight loss maintenance. Moreover, a lot of fast foods contain processed meats that elevate their sodium content.
  5. Biscuits and pastries: Most of the commercially produced baked goods are not only full of sugar but are also made with saturated fats like palm oil and butter, or trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oil. Both ingredients make up for an extremely unhealthy nutritional profile that should be avoided at all costs.

Remember, no matter how heart-friendly your diet is, it won’t do you any good if you don’t get regular physical activity. Make it a point to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.

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