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Watch your diet

Processed and ready-to-eat foods are convenient, but the preservatives and additives in them are not good for your heart.


THANK YOU for all your e-mails, letters and calls. Getting feedback is invaluable to me. As desired by most of my readers, I am continuing the series on diets, and will answer queries next time.Diet therapy uses food as agents to prevent illness and speed up recovery in case you are suffering from any ailment.

Surveys conducted across the country have shown that heart diseases prevail highest among people. Patients with diseases of the heart and vascular system constitute 10-15 per cent of all hospital admissions in the cities.

The numbers are increasing rapidly as our lifestyles are changing for the worse. Traditional food habits have been replaced by Western imitations.

Intake of meat/chicken has increased. We use more processed and ready-to-eat foods for convenience, not realising that the preservatives and additives are badfor health. So, this week, I am providing tips on what to eat to keep your heart healthy.

Calories or energy intake, in simple terms, refers to the quantity of food we eat. One gram of carbohydrate and protein provides four calories and one gram of fat equals nine calories. A sedentary adult male needs 2,400 calories a day while a female needs 1,900 calories.

If intake of calories is more than what one burns, it gets deposited as fat or adipose tissue, which causes weight gain. Being overweight is one of the primary factors of coronary heart disease.

Being overweight causes the heart to work more. A high calorie diet increases levels of lipids and triglycerides in the blood. Physical exercise and maintenance of calorie intake are beneficial for your heart.

Some of the high calorie foods that you must avoid are given below. The calorie content of various foods is also given. Choose low calorie foods over high calorie ones.

Foods to avoid:

Nuts and dried fruits
Sweets and desserts
Soft drinks — all the colas
Deep fried foods
Alcohol

Fats:

The type and quantity of intake of fats is important for a healthy heart. Fats provide energy to the human body.

The main sources of fats are ghee, butter and oils. Vegetables, fruits and cereals have little or no fat.

There are 3 types of fat:

Saturated
Unsaturated
Polyunsaturated

Consumption of saturated fats like vanaspati, ghee, butter, cream and fleshy foods such as meat and chicken raises cholesterol levels in the blood, which can be harmful for the heart and for blood circulation.

Fats of vegetable origin contain a high percentage of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA oils help to lower blood cholesterol. Therefore, try to eat vegetarian foods and go slow on or avoid meat and chicken. Fish is an exception. It is a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and should be included in your diet at least two or three times a week. So, eat more fish than meat or chicken.

The amount of fat in your diet is also very important. Since fat improves the taste and flavour of food, we tend to include more fat in our diet unconsciously by deep-frying or adding ghee to food.

Do not cook food in too much oil. Try to use only one tablespoon (30 gm) of oil, preferably vegetable oil, while cooking for the whole day. It is advisable to use a cooking oil which is high in polyunsaturated fats.


Vegetable oils like soyabean oil, safflower and sunflower oil contain more polyunsaturated fatty acid or PUFA than oils of animal origin such as margarine, butter and ghee.

It is recommended that you use oils like Safflower/Sunflower. Coconut oil is an exception, even though it is of vegetable origin. It has only 2 grams of PUFA compared to the 75 gram in safflower oil. Sunflower oil contains 70 grams of PUFA, while groundnut oil contains 28 grams per 100 grams of oil. Vanaspati has a count of 6 grams of PUFA and ghee, four grams for 100 grams. So even if you love the taste of coconut oil, switch to safflower or sunflower oil for your heart's sake.

Meal patterns:

Due to hectic lifestyles, most of us eat a small breakfast or skip the meal entirely, because we are running against time.

Lunch too is small — just a bite of a sandwich — but we land up having a large dinner which contains nearly half the day's energy intake.

When meals are relatively equal in size, blood lipid levels are lower then when meals are not equal. It has been shown that large meals favour the synthesis of cholesterol in the body, which is again, not heart friendly.

I have not touched upon cholesterol and its role in the health of your heart or foods rich in cholesterol.

This is an extensive topic and I shall take it up next time.

LILY MADHOK

(Lily Madhok is a therapeutic nutritionist, dietician and beutician)

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