Heart disease is the biggest factor behind deaths caused by medical conditions in India. As with every disease, prevention is key and experts worldwide say that healthy eating habits can keep your ticker happy for years to come. We list down the top heart healthy snacks that you should turn to every time you’re in the mood for a light bite.
Apart from protein, nuts contain a mix of unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E and plant sterols. Nuts keep your heart healthy by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol levels. They have also been linked to lower levels of inflammation, which may translate into lower risk of heart disease. Eating nuts regularly may improve the health of the lining of the arteries and reduce the risk of developing blood clots that can lead to a heart attack. But nuts are high in calories, so make sure you limit the portion size.
A Harvard University study revealed that eating blueberries with strawberries could reduce a person’s risk of a heart attack by more than 30 per cent. So small that you hardly notice how many you’ve eaten, these fruits are considered a superfood. Most berries contain resveratrol, the antioxidant that’s also found in wine and dark chocolate. Multiple studies have linked resveratrol to a lower risk of heart disease.
The blood red arils possess potent anti-inflammatory properties, owing to the presence of the punicalagin. So much so that pomegranate juice has been found to have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea, which prevents hardening of arteries. Research has shown that drinking pomegranate juice lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow and delays oxidation of bad cholesterol in patients with coronary heart disease.
A study at Tufts University showed that antioxidants called avenanthramide found in oatmeal help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The presence of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber found in oatmeal, has been proven effective in lowering cholesterol. The fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol. Have it made in water or milk, with fruits or nuts.
Oily fish like salmon are rich in heart-healthy omega fatty acids, which have been shown to lower triglycerides, a type of fat in the bloodstream. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may also slow down the growth of plaques in the arteries and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Fatty fish are typically cold water fish. The American Dietetic Association recommends salmon, tuna, trout, herring, sardines and mackerel for heart health. Two servings of fish a week are recommended.
Be it soy milk, tofu or sticks, soy is extremely heart-friendly. The fatty acid composition of soy is very heart-healthy: 12 percent saturated fat, 29 percent monounsaturated fat and 59 percent PUFA. Studies have shown that consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day – about 10 ounces tofu or 2 1/2 cups of soy milk – can lower bad cholesterol by 5 percent to 6 percent.
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, vitamin A and C, folic acid, beta-carotene, and lycopene, a bright red carotene that gives tomatoes their colour. Lycopene works as the tomatoes’ main antioxidant and heart-supportive nutrient. Tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. They also prevent aggregation of platelet cells in the blood, which may lower the risk of heart problems such as atherosclerosis.
The zero-calorie green tea seems to have become everyone’s favourite go-to drink. But it isn’t new, with medicinal benefits being tapped by Chinese herbalists for centuries. Green tea contains unique flavonoids called catechins. These promote an antioxidant, antiviral and anti plaque forming nature. A study of 40,530 Japanese adults found that participants who drank more than five cups of green tea a day had a 26 percent lower risk of death from heart attack or stroke. The catechins help lower levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, translating into less clotting and development of plaque.
A judicious mix of exercise and diet can keep your heart – and you – healthy. Let a HealthifyMe expert tell you more