Monday, March 02, 2009

FOODS TO LOWER CHOLESTEROL - 15 foods that can save your heart

Over the years, the definition of a Heart-Healthy Diet has changed

Cutting saturated fats to lower cholesterol used to be the focus, but now we know that if that is all you are doing, you are missing other dietary chances to further protect your heart. Additional risk factors like hypertension and inflammation can also be tamed by a healthy diet. The following 15 foods will help you tackle heart disease from every angle.

Head OFF High Blood Pressure
Hypertension (blood pressure that is 140/90 or higher) is the most common risk factor for heart disease. When blood pressure is elevated, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body. To maintain a healthy blood pressure (120/80 or lower), eat these foods regularly:

1.Swiss Chard
A potassium powerhouse, this vegetable supplies nearly 1,000mg of the mineral per cup, cooked. Studies show that you need about 4,000mg of potassium (found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and yogurt) a day to keep blood pressure low.

2. Fresh Herbs
They are a healthy substitute for salt, which contains almost 2,400mg of sodium per teaspoon - exceeding the HPB's recommended daily intake of not more than 2,000mg. As an added bonus, herbs are rich in antioxidants that protect your cells against the kind of damage that can lead to heart disease.

3. Low-fat and Non-fat Yogurt
Have yogurt for breakfast and as a snack. It has about 50 per cent more blood pressure-lowering calcium and potassium than low-fat milk. If you are not a yogurt fan, drink low-fat or non-fat milk instead, or use it as an ingredient in everyday cooking.

Curb Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels
LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, accumulates on artery walls, hardening into plaque1 that can block blood flow. To keep plaque at bay, you want to lower LDL and raise HDL, "good" cholesterol. These food foods will help:

1.Garlic
This tasty bulb has a mild cholesterol-lowering effect and keeps LDL from building up in the arteries and contributing to plaque. You need to consume several cloves a day to get the protective benefits.

2.Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can lower LDL, when they replace saturated fats in your diet. Try replacing saturated fat-rich foods with olive oils, as well as avacado, nuts and other sources of monounsaturated fats. Extra-virgin olive oil has an advantage over other types: it packs extra polyphenols - compounds that keep LDL cholesterol from sticking to artery walls.

3.Almonds
Include 28g of these nuts a day as part of a healthy diet, the LDL levels can drop 13 to 20 per cent - the amount comparable to the reduction that occurs with some medications. Almonds are particularly heart-friendly because of the presence of vitamin E. This antioxidant protects cells against the kind of damage that can lead to atherosclerosis (a disease in which plaque builds up on the insides of your arteries). They are also a good source of calcium.

Beat High Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that lifestyle modifications - namely, a healthy diet and exercise - at the stage of pre-diabetes, can prevent the future development of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a powerful risk factor for heart disease, particularly in women. It can damage the nerves and blood vessels that lead to the heart and quadruple your chances of having a heart attack.
To keep your blood sugar levels in check, add these foods to your diet:

1.Barley
It is the grain least likely to produce spikes in your blood sugar; keeping sugar levels under control. The reason may be that the grain has high levels of a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which is digested very slowly and helps to lower cholesterol levels.

2.Chilli Pepper
Sprinkling this spice on your food helps prevent a big spike in blood sugar after a meal. When adults polished off a chilli peppered seasoned burger with a sugary beverage, their blood sugar was much lower than when they finished the drink and burger sans spices.

3. Carrots
Crunching on half a cup of dark yellow vegetables (e.g. carrots) each day, cuts the risk of diabetes. To enhance the absorption of antioxidants from carrots (or any colourful veggie), serve them with a little fat, such as olive oil.

Scale Back Your Weight

Simply carrying a few extra kilos raises your risk of developing chest pains or having a heart attack by 17 per cent. Excess kilos also raises your odds of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation, diabetes and other conditions that increase heart disease. To maintain a healthy weight, incorporate these foods into your meals:

1.Broccoli
While it is true that all veggies are low-cal, broccoli is one of the biggest diet bargains: A half cup of cooked florets has a mere 27 calories, about the amount in just a tiny bite of lasagna. You will also get 3g of fibre, which helps fill you up.

2. Oranges
Oranges deliver that sweet taste you crave for just 65 calories a piece. In addition, oranges contain a type of fibre called pectin that not only keeps you full, but also controls cholesterol.

3.Lean Pork
Adults who have a high-protein meal burn twice as many calories afterwards as those who eat a high-carb one. With just 122 calories per 85g, pork tenderloin is one of the leanest sources of protein, supplying as much as prime rib for one-third to one-eighth of the fat.

Fight Inflammation

Most heart attacks happen when plaque that has built up in the artery burst, forming a blood clot that blocks blood flow. High levels of C-reactive protein (or CRP, a measurement of inflammation) is a more reliable predictor of heart trouble than high cholesterol. To fight inflammation, rely on the following foods:

1.Salmon
This fish is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids which helps to ease inflammation. It boasts of three to six times the amount found in other types of popular seafood like, shrimp and flounder.

2.Black Beans
Few foods supply as much magnesium as black beans, and adults who do not get enough of the mineral in their diets are about twice as likely to have high levels of CRP.

3.Cranberries
They are loaded with anthocyanins, an antioxidant which help neutralise the enzymes that cause plaque to break apart. Not keen on cranberries? Try fresh or dried cherries instead.

Source: SHAPE March 2008 edition

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