Not all diets are geared solely towards cutting down on calories and controlling weight. Many can help prevent or even cure diseases and conditions, allowing you to enjoy not just a smaller waistline, but a longer life.
Dieting for a Healthy Heart
- Problem: blocked arteries, caused by cholesterol and fatty deposits
- Ideal diet: Limit your dietary cholesterol to 200 milligrams, and your salt to 2,400 milligrams. Your fat intake should be only 30% of your total calories (10% if you already have heart disease), and most of that should be monounsaturated. A general rule of thumb is if the oil doesn’t freeze solid when put in the refrigerator, it’s healthy.
- Why weight is an issue: If you are obese, your body weight is putting an extra strain on your heart, which has to work extra hard to support your body systems and carry the extra pounds.
- Stay away from: Red meat, pork, bacon, liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, full-fat dairy products (milk, butter, and ice cream), coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil If you are overweight, your cardiologist may recommend lowering your total calorie intake to relieve the strain on your heart. This is why you’ll be encouraged to stay away from simple carbohydrates (breads, bagels, and pasta). They are not bad per se, but they can increase your total calorie count. Some studies also show that a high calorie count can stimulate an insulin response, which increases the chance that calories will be converted into fat. You also need to avoid transfatty acids, which are worse than saturated fats, and can tip you towards a heart attack faster than you can say, pass the ketchup. These include fried fast foods like french fries and onion rings, microwave popcorn, and anything that has partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil listed on its label.
- Best bet: load up on complex carbohydrates that are low in total fat, saturated fat, and sugar content
Healthy options: Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains in their natural forms, legumes, nonfat dairy products, soy products, and egg whites, moderate amounts of lean meat, and skinless poultry, fish with low mercury content (e.g., wild salmon, cod, and trout) and moderate amounts of nuts, seeds, and avocados. Use cooking oils made of canola, olive, walnut, rapeseed, and soybean. You also need water soluble dietary fiber (WSDF) which helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. You’ll find it in barley, oats, oat bran, apples, bananas, blackberries, pears, prunes, beans (lima, kidney, pinto, and navy), chick peas, black-eyed peas, lentils, brussel sprouts, carrots, and broccoli. One food supplement that can give you the WSDF that you need is called psyllium. Psyllium is a type of soluble fiber that comes from a shrub-like plant called plantain (not the same as the banana-like plant). What is actually useful in the plantain are the psyllium seeds which are coated with mucilage. Used as a dietary fiber, psyllium actually helps in digestion and regular bowel movements, and unlike other types of fiber, it does not cause bloating or gas buildup. Psyllium is actually considered as a good intestinal cleaner.