World Heart Day 2018: Some Functional Foods For Heart Health You Should Know
Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer hence scientists have researched about the potential benefits of various functional foods for heart health.
Nuts are a great snack, however, the key is portion control as nuts are calorie dense foods.
- Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer
- Important food sources of soluble fibre include oats, barley, nuts etc
- High in protein, low in saturated fat fish is a healthy food for heart
Functional foods are foods that have physiologically active components and hence provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer hence scientists have researched about the potential benefits of various functional foods for heart health. When eaten in adequate amounts on a regular basis, these foods help in lowering the risk of heart disease by lowering blood lipid levels, reducing plaque formation, and scavenging free radicals.
Some important functional foods include:
1. Flaxseed: The functionality of flax seed can be attributed to the following: omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fibre. Together these components counter inflammatory action, oxidative damage, lower blood pressure, regularize heartbeat, prevent deposition of plaque, hardening of arteries, thus have an overall beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.
2. Psyllium & other sources of soluble fibre: It is well known that a deficiency of fiber in western diets is responsible for the epidemic of diabetes and heart disease. Psyllium is a soluble fibre that has been shown to help lower cholesterol. Important food sources of soluble fibre include oats, barley, nuts, seeds, pea, beans, legumes and some fruits & vegetables. Pysllium is usually available in the form of a fibre supplement.
3. Nuts: Nuts are nutrient dense foods containing cholesterol lowering mono-unsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid, amino acid arginine (essential for arterial health), soluble fibres, several antioxidant polyphenols, and other nutrients like vitamin E, magnesium etc. Nuts can significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol when consumed as a part of a diet low in total fat and saturated fat. Though walnuts are the most researched nuts because of their highest omega-3 content, other nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pistachio too are heart-friendly. Nuts are a great snack, however, the key is portion control as nuts are calorie dense foods.
4. Fruits and vegetables: Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, carotenoids, phytonutrients like polyphenols, fibre and several vitamins & minerals. Citrus fruits, red & yellow peppers, sprouts, melon, strawberries, guava and amla (Indian gooseberry) are all rich sources of vit C. Deeply coloured fruits & veggies like carrots, tomatoes, dark green leafy veggies are abundant in carotenoids and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Many fruits & veggies, particularly the purple coloured ones like blueberries, cranberries, cherries, eggplant, purple cabbage and grapes are a source of polyphenols. These include flavonoids (like anthocyanin), lignins and tannins.
5. Garlic: Garlic contains sulphur compounds, most important of which is allicin, which is also the active component present in garlic. Several studies have shown that high doses of garlic supplements can help lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, thus reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
6. Turmeric: Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric is a polyphenol which is an antioxidant. Various studies suggest that curcumin lowers cholesterol and triglycerides and reduces oxidative stress.
7. Fatty fish: High in protein, low in saturated fat and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA); if prepared without added saturated fat, fatty fish is considered to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by lowering triglyceride levels, arrhythmia and deposition of plaque. Two servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring) replacing other unhealthy animal protein in a week is recommended.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. It is important to understand that an overall healthy lifestyle rather than an isolated functional/ superfood is the key to heart health. So
- Adopt overall healthy, well balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
- Limit salt intake
- De-stress, get adequate sleep
- Adopting all these measures will go a long way in improving heart
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