A strong perception in India is that men are more prone to heart ailments than women. Unfortunately, the last few years have witnessed an increase in the number of women suffering from heart disease. What jolted me was a 36-year old acquaintance undergoing an emergency angioplasty. This incident singlehandedly made me shift to a heart healthy diet by including food for the heart in my meals.
Mind you, dietary habits are not easy to change and it requires significant willpower and support from the family. In my case, this made all the difference. And yes, I had a few tricks up my sleeve when I was in the kitchen, which ensured that the meals remained healthy yet visually appealing. I had to, of course, be aware of what I ate because that was the starting point, and the sooner I began, the better of I'd be. Here are a few ways in which I changed my diet for a healthy heart and hopefully, a longer life:
Reduce Salt and Spices
The Indian diet is rich in salts and spices, so this was extremely tough to practice. Initially, when I brought down the salt intake in my regular meals, I craved the mango pickle or crispy papad. Then, I realized there was no other way but to be mentally strong because small indulgences now could have bigger consequences later.
I made small alterations to recipes like substituting salt with oregano in a tomato sandwich. WHO recommends that daily intake of salt should not be more than 5 gms. So, remember this when you feel the urge to add salt and chat masala in fruit chat. I discovered that having fruit chat with roasted cumin powder, lemon juice and black salt tastes way better.
A fiber-rich diet is recommended for a healthy heart, according to Harvard. It helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems. While kidney beans and chickpeas are rich in fiber, the Indian way of cooking them actually reduces their nutritional value. So, now I go for a chickpea salad with cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions diced together and seasoned with lemon juice and mint leaves. This way I avoid the oil and extra salt yet enjoy the salad. Its a win-win for a heart healthy diet.
Grill, Grill and Grill Some More
Grilling is not part of everyday Indian cooking but my enthusiasm to reduce oil intake made me try this and do I love it! I strongly recommend grilling chicken and fish. My all-time favorite recipe entails marinating the chicken in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika and a little salt for about 15-20 minutes and then, grilling it in the oven. You can also experiment with rosemary and thyme. There is no need to add any additional oil, and it is flavorsome food for heart.
Over a period, I started feeling lighter, fitter and more agile. These small fixes helped me adopt an overall healthier lifestyle. I'm sure this will make a difference to you in the long run too. Opting for a healthier alternative in my day-to-day life helped me improve my immunity and lose weight. And thinking back, it was much easier to change my habits at this stage of my life than after some sort of heart health crisis. I'm glad I made the switch, and you can too.
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