It is widely believed that eating a lot of “harmful foods” can lead to heart disease. According to a Study, the real culprit is undernutrition. This was published in the July 20, 2023, issue of the European Heart Journal. The study suggests that a low intake of certain types of protective foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dr Sunil Dwivedi is a consultant in cardiology at Manipal Hospital on Millers Road in Bengaluru. He says that today’s diet is unbalanced and high-calorie. The diet is based on processed foods that are low in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. He adds that a balanced, low-carbohydrate diet, with adequate amounts of protein and fat, is needed. He stresses that it is important to maintain metabolism and limit calorie consumption. It protects against high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Dwivedi explains that fruits rich in micronutrients are also antioxidants. These are the ones that protect us against acute heart attacks. He shares that nuts are rich in omega-3 fats and are cholesterol-free. This type of unsaturated fat may help reduce inflammation. “Inflammation can damage blood vessels, causing heart conditions and strokes.”
What fruits and nuts do you need for a healthy, strong heart?
- AppleApples may lower your risk of heart disease. Pavithra Raj, chief dietist at Manipal Hospital in Yeshwanthpur, says that apples contain soluble fibers, which help reduce bad fats in the body. Apples contain polyphenols, which can help lower blood pressure. The flavonoids in apples can also help reduce your risk of stroke.
- Raj highlights Pomegranate. It contains vitamin C and is an antioxidant. It helps fight oxidative stresses that are linked to chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart complications.
- Bharathi Kumar is a dietician at Fortis Hospital in Nagarbhavi, Bangalore. She says that almonds are a good source of reducing cholesterol and improving platelet functions. She also adds that vitamin E intake from food protects against coronary heart diseases.
- Papaya: Raj explains that papayas are heart-healthy fruits that contain antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. It’s rich in fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and regulate weight gain. Papayas also contain vitamin C and beta carotene. They fight inflammation and oxidative stresses, preventing heart problems and stroke.
- WalnutsWalnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acids), which are considered to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Lowering LDL cholesterol levels is the main cause of cardiovascular disease. They also help control blood clots.
In India, Dr Dwiwedi recommends that a diet rich in fruits, millet, and whole grains is heart-healthy. He suggests avoiding expensive foods and choosing seasonal fruits, vegetables, and millet to maintain good heart health.