Foods for the heart and more

SINCE September is the beginning of spring and also Heart Awareness Month, registered dietician Kele Moshugi offers these top 10 tips for a healthy heart:

1.Follow a healthy and balanced diet

A healthy diet means all food groups are represented in your daily dietary intake. This includes grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans.

Include soy in your diet. Soy isoflavones may lower blood cholesterol and protect cardiac arteries.

2.Eat small, regular meals

Eat at least six small meals – preferably low GI – each day. This will supply you with sustained energy. It will also ensure you are receiving enough nutrients.

3.Follow a low-fat diet

The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats (butter, margarine and shortening) you add to food when cooking and serving.

You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10% fat.

4.Read food labels

Read food labels carefully and be aware of the list of ingredients which are always listed in order of quantity present in products, from the largest to the smallest quantity.

5.Increase your fibre content

Increasing fibre in your diet can help prevent heart disease. Whole grains are a good source of fibre and other nutrients which play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.

Eating ground flaxseed is another easy way to add whole grains to your diet. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. They can lower your total blood cholesterol. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon into yogurt or hot cereal so they can be digested.

Remember that fibre should be added gradually to your diet and should be accompanied by adequate fluid intake.

6.Eat less sugar and refined starches

Try to avoid sugary food. Refined starches include foods like white bread, white rice as well as more obvious sugar-dense foods like sweets, cool drinks and biscuits.

7.Achieve and maintain your ideal body weight

Find out what your body mass index (BMI) is and try to achieve and maintain your ideal body weight. A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is ideal. A BMI lower than 18.5 suggests you may be underweight while a number above 25 may indicate you are overweight.

8. More physical activity

Exercise, or physical activity, lowers blood pressure. It also slows resting pulse rate and lowers blood cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes.

9.Go for regular blood lipid profile follow-ups

Ask your doctor or healthcare practitioner to test your blood lipid profile at least once a year. Go every three months if you know you have high cholesterol levels.

10.Reduce the salt in your food

Eating a lot of sodium (salt) can contribute to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease. Reduce salt intake for a heart-healthy diet.

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