What Diet Should Be Followed During A Heart Disease?
By: Jasmine Marfatia
Published On: November 22, 2018
This article discusses nutrition therapy to reduce risk factors that may contribute cardiovascular diseases.
A poor diet is among the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases today. In India, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have risen by 34%, contributing to 209 deaths per one lakh people in the country. In fact, less than 1% of children and adults eat according to the dietary recommendations of a heart healthy diet.
Suffering from a heart disease can greatly affect one’s quality of lifeand also put them at risk of developing comorbidities and symptoms of heart disease that are associated with heart disease. Therefore it is important to ensure that our daily diet is one that supports a healthy lifestyle to control heart diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease etc.
Goals of nutritional therapy
The goals of a diet plan for heart patients are as follows:
1. Weight management for overweight or underweight patients
2. Restrict sodium intake and processed foods that are rich in sodium
3. Reduce high blood pressure in hypertensive patients
4. Improve lipid profile readings by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol
5. Lower the risk of CVD in individuals with genetic predisposition of heart disease
6. Control progression of CVD in patients
There isn’t one stand-alone diet for heart patients that will work as a diet for heart attacks, or a diet for heart diseases. Every case of heart disease may vary, and with it, the diet chart for heart patients varies too.
That being said, research has proven that the DASH diet is extremely beneficial for individuals at risk of heart diseases. Using the principles of this diet and modifying it to the individual’s requirements may be useful in improving heart disease markers, primarily hypertension or high blood pressure.
What is the DASH diet?
The DASH diet stands for ‘dietary approach to stop hypertension’. It was created with the aim of lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients in as natural a way as possible. The diet suggests that ones meal plan should be rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, high quality fats, and low fat dairy.
Consequent research studies have shown that this method of eating has its benefits in other areas as well. It has been used to improve the lipid profile, support weight loss in overweight patients, and also reduce the risk of cancer, kidney stones, and diabetes mellitus.
SERVINGS PER DAY
High on fibre
Potassium, magnesium, fibre, antioxidants
Potassium, magnesium, fibre, antioxidants
Low fat dairy
Calcium & protein
Lean meats, poultry, and fish
Low in SFA, high in magnesium
Nuts and oilseeds
4-5 per week
Magnesium, potassium, fibre
Fats & oils
MUFA & PUFA
*Based on a 2000 calorie diet
Heart patients diets are focused on reducing refined and simple sugars like table sugar, jaggery, sweets, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, low fibre and processed grains like bread and pasta, as it may increase total triglycerides and reduce HDL (good cholesterol).
Increase intake of complex carbohydrates from high fibre grains are essential as they block cholesterol synthesis. Examples of complex carbohydrates include brown rice, quinoa, oats, millets, vegetables, and fibrous fruits.
The total protein intake should be about 15-20% of daily calorie intake. However, the sources and quality of protein are of great importance. Heart patients must ensure that they limit protein consumption from animal sources to lean meats like chicken, eggs, fish, and low fat dairy. Red meat should ideally be avoided or kept minimal. Good sources of plant based protein include peas, brown rice, soya, legumes and pulses.
Fats that should be entirely avoided are trans fats and hydrogenated fats that are present in packaged and processed foods like wafers. Consumption of saturated fats are to be monitored in terms of quality and quantity. Monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids are ideals sources, that can be found in olive oil, flaxseed oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, and avocados.
Antioxidants are crucial for heart patients to reduce oxidation of LDL particles. It’s not uncommon to hear of foods that are promoted for their high level of antioxidants. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene.
Good sources of vitamin C include lemons, amla, guavas, berries, citrus fruits, cabbage, broccoli, kale, kiwi, pineapples. Beta carotene can be found in red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, papaya, bell peppers, sweet potatoes. Vitamin E may be obtained from nuts and seeds, spinach, avocado, shellfish, cereal bran.
Functional foods to include in a heart healthy diet plan
- Apple cider vinegar - lowers renin-angiotensin system, causes calcium retention, helps lower blood pressure.
- Garlic - contains an active sulphur compound called allicin that increases nitric oxide levels, and helps in vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels to decrease blood pressure).
- Nitrates - Foods that contain nitrates like spinach, beets, brinjal, pomegranate, carrots.
- Green tea, white tea, black tea - they contains catechins, flavonoids, and epigallocatechin that lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
- Soluble fibre - helps in sodium extraction, and improves endothelial function.
- Soya - contains isoflavones that are anti-inflammatory.
- Dark chocolate - cocoa contains polyphenols that contain produces nitrates, improves insulin resistance, and aids vasodilation.
Besides following a healthy diet plan, and improving lifestyle habits, other factors too, may impact heart health like reducing alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking, and engaging in physical activity and exercise, including cardiovascular routines.
Lastly, find a way to unwind at the end of each day, whether it is meditation, reading, music, or just getting in some good quality sleep.
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