Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is an umbrella term that encapsulates all diseases of heart & blood vessels. It includes everything from conditions that are inherited or those that people are born with, to those that are developed later in life such as coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke. CVD’s have become the leading cause of mortality in India. There are number of factors in our control which increase our risk of CVD such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking, high cholesterol levels, to name a few. Through this article, I want to point you in the right direction of some dietary changes that can support the health of your heart & blood vessels. DIETARY FAT There are three main types of Dietary Fat – Unsaturated Fat (monosaturated and polysaturated), Saturated Fat & Trans Fat. The structure of these fats is what makes them behave differently in our body & ultimately determines how they impact our health. The amount and type of fat in our diet ultimately influences our risk of CVD. The evidence supports that when we replace foods high in saturated fats and trans fatty acids for foods high in unsaturated fats (monosaturated and polysaturated) we can reduce the risk of heart disease. Monosaturated fats can be found in olive oil, nut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds whereas polysaturated fats such as Omega 3 & Omega 6 can be found in oily fish, plant oils, nuts & seeds. Walnuts are particularly unique as they are the only tree nut to contain significant amounts of plant based Omega 3. Saturated fats are found in butter, coconut oil, the visible fat on meat and fried foods. Trans fats are found in fried foods, cakes, pastries, mithais, biscuits & margarine. Top Tips: When cooking, swap for cooking oils that are high in saturated fats such as butter, ghee, coconut oil for those high in unsaturated fats such as olive oil, rapeseed oil and nut oil. Try and cut back consumption of processed meats such as sausages, ham, burgers which are high in saturated fats. Reduce consumption of fried foods, take away meals, biscuits, cakes & pastries which also contain high amount of saturates fats. WHOLE GRAIN CARBOHYDRATES Different types of carbohydrates (i.e. refined or whole grain) have opposite effects on CVD. Carbohydrates can largely be classified as Refined: In which part the grain is removed during milling and processing, thereby stripping it of all its nutrients. Or Whole grains: Which is not processed and contains all the original constituents of the grains i.e. bran, endosperm & germ. Research suggests that whole grains appear to reduce the risk of CVD. Whole grain / whole grain foods include: whole wheat, whole meal flour, whole meal bread, whole grain cereal (e.g. wheat biscuits), oats (e.g. porridge, granola), whole barley, amaranth, rye, spelt, quinoa, brown rice, red rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, sorghum, millet and even popcorn. Top Tips: Snack on plane popcorn or oat cakes with peanut butter or rye cracker & hummus. Have oats for breakfast as porridge, muesli or granola. Opt for whole grain bread. Swap white flour in your recipes when baking for whole wheat or spelt flour or do half and half. It will taste just as good and will make your dish healthy for you. DIETARY FIBRE Dietary fibre, in whole grains & plant based food, has the potential to lower LDL (know an bad Cholesterol) and reduce CVD risk. Dietary fibre is the edible part of plants resistant to digestion & absorption in the small intestine. It is completely or partially broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. Adult should be aiming for 30g of fibre per day. Top Tips Increase the variety of plant-based foods in your diet. This week add a new fruit, vegetable, grain or nut to your diet that you wouldn’t typically choose. Have oats porridge for breakfast – Beta Glucan, a soluble dietary fibre in oats & barely appears to have a positive effect on total & LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Sprinkle a spoon of flax seeds, mixed seeds or a handful of nuts to your breakfast/salads or meals. Keep the skin on vegetables while cooking to increase fibre intake. 4 pm hunger pang? Make your own trail mix with nuts, fresh blue berries & dark chocolate pieces or you can choose our TAN | 365 Granola – which is a trifecta of fibre, protein & healthy fats, helping you stay fuller for longer and stabilizing your blood glucose levels throughout the day. ANTI-OXIDANTS & POLYPHENOLS Evidence supports high fruit and vegetable and the reduced risk of CVD. This beneficial effect is due to the plant chemical called polyphenols which have anti-oxidant properties. You can find them in a variety of plant based food including cocoa, tea, colourful fruits, vegetables & nuts. Top Tips Aim to get at least 5 vegetables to your diet per day, the more colour the better – colorful bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots. Add 1-2 handful of berries to your breakfast – blackcurrants, blue berries, blackberries, raspberries & strawberries. Research suggest that these berries have a beneficial effect on our health due to their antioxidant properties. Nibble on dark chocolate – dark chocolate is rich in flavanols. The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of these beneficial compounds. Flavanols have attracted huge amount of interest due to their potential ability to lower blood pressure, a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Eat Nuts! In addition to being rich in fibre and healthy fats, nuts are also rich in antioxidants. To summarize, as per research & scientific evidence the best diet to support your heart health is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains, olive oil, plant oils, with a moderate consumption of fish & dairy and limited consumption of red or processed meats and processed foods. In addition to diet there are many other things in our lifestyle which we can address such as stopping smoking, reducing alcohol, being physically active & getting enough good quality sleep.