Ten foods that protect your heart

Scientists have confirmed food plays a major role in determining a person’s health.

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2010, 16:52 PM IST

Smita Mishra

Believe it or not, scientists have confirmed that food plays a major role in determining a person’s health and longevity. While a number of diseases have been blamed on unhealthy eating habits, there are certain foods that actually heal the system and protect it against deadly diseases. So if you want to live longer and remain strong, go for the following as they protect your heart and help keep it ticking non stop.

1. Soy and lentils: Proteins found in soy and lentils are said to prevent heart attacks. High in fibre, low in fat, they tend to lower blood fats or triglycerides. Tofu, soy granules and lentils added to soups do wonders and taste great too.

2. Fish, shrimp and seafood: It is a general observation, also backed by strong scientific evidence that people living in areas where fish forms the staple diet, the incidence of coronary artery disease is negligible. Fish contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They not just lower blood fats (triglycerides), studies suggest that omega-3 PUFAs make the blood thinner and less likely to clot.

Try baked fish, sushi, cold salmon and boiled shrimp in tomato sauce for best results.

3. Olive Oil: Olive oil protects against heart disease by controlling LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the good cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated fats as olive oil. Besides, Olive oil is also said to fight colon cancer. Cook in olive oil instead of butter or hydrogenated oil.

4. Oats: An ingredient in oats called beta glucan is believed to reduce cholesterol. Besides, high fiber content in oats maintains the health of digestive system. Add a tablespoon of oat to your soup, salad, patties dough or pancake and feel the difference.

5. Walnuts: Walnuts are strongly recommended for heart patients as they not only contain B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants but are also high in plant sterols and monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids that lower LDL cholesterol. Chopped walnuts serve as ideal topping for soups and salads. You can also make an interesting dessert by mixing crushed walnuts with chopped apples, brown sugar and a teaspoon of low fat whipped cream.

6. Red Wine: Consuming red wine in low amounts reduces heart disease. Red wine contains flavonoids that fight against blood cholesterol. It is amusing to know that actually all high alcohol drinks raise the “good” cholesterol but white wine, whiskey and beer are refined to such an extent that they lose the micronutrients and hence are not recommended. Also, we tend to forget the threshold limit while boozing.

A glass or two of red wine a day has a soothing effect on nerves and helps reducing the thickness of blood. For best results, have a glass with dinner.

7. Green leafy vegetables and coloured fruits: Green vegetables and coloured fruits are believed to be rich not just in vitamins and minerals but are also said to reduce diabetes risk to a great extent thus indirectly contributing to heart’s health. The best way is to eat them raw and boiled. You can also add them to salads and pastas and make delicious soups by boiling them with some pepper and salt.

8. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is believed to reduce heart disease risk. Though it sounds strange, but actually the tomato that we buy from general stores contains more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Try everything with tomatoes as ingredients-from yummy salsa, to tangy chutneys and from healthy dips to piping hot soups.

9. Apples: An ingredient in apple called quercetin acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and prevents formation of clots in blood. Besides, they contain fiber which is great for the digestive system. You can make apple salsa by mixing some lemon juice and black salt in crushed apples or give an extra crunchy taste to your salads by adding crisp chopped apples.

10. Grains: Whole grains are a rich source of fiber and other nutrients that play a key role in regulating blood pressure and maintain heart health. As per scientific findings, a diet high in whole grain foods is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke. Add flaxseed to your salad, or mix wheat bran in your porridge for extra fiber.