When it comes to keeping our heart healthy there are three key factors that come into play: genetics, diet and lifestyle. While we can’t control our genetics, we can make things a little easier on our bodies by thinking twice about the food we consume and how much we exercise.
Experts have long warned against consuming too much cholesterol-rich foods, but there are also other simple diet changes you can make to help keep your heart healthy.
Ahead of World Health Day on September 29, renowned Australian chef Lyndey Milan has shared her top five food tips for a healthy heart.
1. Dining out? Don’t be shy about making special requests
Food on most menus will probably fit into a heart-healthy diet if prepared with lower fat ingredients and less salt. Ask your waiter if the kitchen can alter preparations to meet your needs, or call ahead before you choose your restaurant. If you’re not sure about a certain dish, ask how it’s prepared. You can request that visible fat be trimmed from the meat and skin be removed from poultry before cooking. Or view it as a special occasion and don’t fret as you make the really healthy choices at home.
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2. Make good fat choices
Diets high in saturated or trans fats raise blood cholesterol which is another major risk factor for heart disease. When cooking, use foods with unsaturated fat in place of foods with saturated fat, such as oils made from olives, nuts and seeds. I’m a big fan of extra virgin olive oil, in fact it’s the only oil I use, which has a good source of monounsaturated fats that can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Good quality Australian extra virgin olive oils are also fresher and can be cooked to high temperatures or used to finish dishes.
3. Drink water
Our bodies need water. Most of the chemical reactions that happen in our cells need water, and it helps our blood carry nutrients around the body. Plain tap water is the best drink choice – it’s cheap, quenches your thirst and has no kilojoules. I like to add chopped fresh fruit or vegetables to cold still or sparkling water for a refreshing drink, such as mint, lemon or cucumber. We are blessed to live in a country with good tap water so that’s my preference. Certainly not imported in bottles!
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4. Use heart-healthy cooking methods
Cooking for yourself enables you more control over your sodium and sugar intake and is easier and less time consuming than you think. It also tastes better and makes you happier! Invest in some handy kitchen appliances like the Philips Airfryer, which allows you to grill, bake, roast and fry with little to no oil, making it the perfect way to quickly and cleanly make delicious meals and snacks.
5. Eat less salt
Eating too much sodium over time can increase your risk of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Instead of using salt to promote flavour, consider the use of your aromatics. Natural spices, herbs or even edible flowering onions are your friends. I love to liven up a plain vegetable soup with some lemon and orange zest, or fresh herbs such as basil and coriander. A squeeze of lemon juice can increase the perception of salt and so reduce the amount you need.
Are you careful with your heart health? What do you do to try to stay healthy?