Diet & heart diseases
For years, fat was a four-letter word. We were urged to banish it from our diets whenever possible. We switched to low-fat foods. But are the low-fat foods represent healthy fats? The shift didn’t make us healthier, probably because we cut back on healthy fats as well as harmful ones.
When you hear the word “fat,” you probably automatically think “bad.” That’s because for years we’ve heard that fat causes heart attacks, high cholesterol, weight gain, and even afternoon slumps. But now we know better. The research suggests that not all fats are created equal. Sure, some fats are still bad, and too much of any kind of fat is harmful to your health. But research has shown that certain types of healthy fats protect us from high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. These types of healthy fats are turning out to be so healthy that you probably need to eat more of them. And this might protect us from the increasing risk of heart disease and other health problems associated with poor diet and lifestyle habits.
Statistics around heart diseases in India are alarming
Heart disease is increasing in the younger generation with a significant risk in both males and females. More and more number of young Indians are suffering from coronary artery disease. India is already seen as the diabetes capital of the world. Soon India will also be called as coronary heart disease capital of the world due to increasing prevalence every year.
According to current estimates, India will soon have the highest number of heart disease cases in the world. According to the Indian Heart Association, “50% of all heart attacks in Indians occur under 50 years of age and 25% of all heart attacks in Indians occur under 40 years of age. Population living in cities is three times more prone to heart attacks than people living in villages”.
Major Reasons for heart diseases:
The major reason behind the increasing prevalence of heart diseases among young Indians can be attributed to poor lifestyle and westernization of diets. Some major factors contributing to poor heart health among young Indians are:
- Increasing consumption of junk and packaged foods
- Poor physical activity level
- High-stress levels
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
- Decreasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
Is the root cause is Inflammation?
All these poor lifestyle practices are slowly causing a state of inflammation in your body, which is the main reason behind poor heart health. Conventional medicine would have us believe it’s all related to a high saturated fat diet or genetic or some combination of both. But there is more to it than this. Unfortunately, very few doctors and health care experts make the connection between poor digestion (which we know creates inflammation) and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Inflammation is our body’s normal response to injury, but when it is too high, in a way that is not a response to injury, it can cause many diseases, such as arthritis and eczema. Studies have shown that the more inflammation a person has, the higher their risk of heart disease and of having atherosclerotic arteries.
Recently, several large clinical studies have shown that inflammation is a key factor in the development of heart disease and the stiffening of the arteries contributing to poor heart health. In one study, giving people a drug that reduces inflammation brought down the number of heart attacks in people who had already had one heart attack. It also brought down the risk of cancer.
How can we handle inflammation?
But how can we reduce inflammation without fancy drugs? Avoiding obesity and smoking are a good start, but the good bacteria that live in our gut can also help. The fundamental role of your gut is induction, training, and function of the Immune system. Thus, around 80 % of your immunity lies in your gut!
According to My22BMI, here are some simple steps that you can take to ensure good gut health which in turn will improve your overall health.
Choosing the right kind of fats (healthy fats)
From a nutritional point of view, good quality fats are important for several health-related aspects and for optimal functioning of the human body. Healthy fats are not just a source of energy; they function as structural building blocks of the body, carry fat-soluble vitamins, are involved in vital physiological processes in the body. These healthy fats are indispensable for a number of important biological functions including growth and development.
The most important thing is understanding different types of fats and to be able to select healthy fats!
Natural fats include saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. All are “good” and healthy fats, meaning that they have positive health benefits, unlike heavily processed, potentially deadly manufactured trans fats. First let’s explore the three healthy fats and their benefits.
Monounsaturated fats are found in all nuts, including almonds, pecans, cashews, and peanuts, as well as in avocados and olive and canola oil. They are quite beneficial. Some groundbreaking studies, such as Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Studies, indicate that monounsaturated fat found in olive oil can reduce risks for heart disease, stroke, and some kinds of cancer. A long-running study showed a correlation between high consumption of nuts–a good source of monounsaturated fats–and a low incidence of heart disease.
These fats are present in fish, sunflower seeds, soybeans, and flaxseeds as well as in cottonseed, corn, and safflower oils. Like monounsaturated fats, these fats have many health benefits. Among other things, polyunsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids for healthy skin and the development of cells in the body.
All unprocessed foods containing fats contain a mixture of the three good fats. For example, the fat in steak is 51 percent monounsaturated, 45 percent saturated and 4 percent polyunsaturated. A healthy diet includes a balance of the different types of natural fats. To balance out, consume predominantly whole foods.
Numerous studies show that saturated fats play many beneficial roles in our bodies, including enhancing the immune system, protecting the liver, forming cell membranes, and helping build healthy bones. However, the health effects of saturated fats are in dispute. Saturated fats have been demonized as unhealthy and linked to high rates of heart disease. But in reality, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that saturated fats are unhealthy. Moreover, the link between saturated fat and heart disease is not as strong as most of the people believe.
Why, then, does saturated fat have such a bad reputation? Part of the reason lies in the fact that all research conducted on saturated fat and its impact on disease examines saturated fats in the context of high-carb diets. Unless saturated fat is isolated from the rest of the diet, such studies can be seriously flawed. In fact, in the context of a low-carb diet, saturated fats have been shown, in several studies, to reverse cardiovascular risk factors. Practically speaking, most people can enjoy saturated fats in the form of cream, butter, and meat without health concerns-as long they are correctly following a controlled-carb dietary program.
Unhealthy Fats = Manufactured Trans Fats
Also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, manufactured trans fat is a heavily processed vegetable oil that is extremely bad for you. (All hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats, but the two terms are not synonymous. Natural trans fats are present in dairy products and certain other foods.) Vegetable shortening and most margarines and vanaspati contain trans fats.
Trans fats are also present in processed and packaged foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is one of the top ingredients in most packaged foods: cookies, snack chips, pretzels, most peanut butter, and shortening. Many famous fast food chains also fry their foods in partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fats are also marked as “unhealthy fats” due to the following reasons.
- It accumulates in your body and clogs arteries. A study published in The Lancet in 1994 showed that almost 75% of the fat found clogging arteries is unsaturated and comes from artificially hydrogenated vegetable oils, not animal fats.
- It raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
- It raises levels of triglycerides, another form of lipid, which increases the risk of heart disease.
- It’s link to risk factors for Type-2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including breast cancer and asthma.
Another important thing to consider is keeping a balance of the right kind of fats
Omega 3 (one of the healthy fats) tend to reduce inflammation, while excessive intake of omega 6 fats tend to increase inflammation-promoting fats. Many studies have found a positive link between a higher ratio of N-3 to N-6 fats and reduced lifestyle diseases. Therefore, keeping the right balance of these fatty acids is necessary. Omega 3 sources include Fisk like salmon, mackerel, sardines, canola oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Omega 6 sources include pumpkin seeds, pistachios, vegetable oils such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, and soybean oil. Those who follow a Western diet are typically eating way too much omega-6s relative to omega-3s. This causes an imbalance which is the main reason behind the abnormal cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body.
The single most important thing is reducing your omega-6 intake by avoiding processed seed and vegetable oils like soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and even sunflower oil that are high in omega-6, as well as processed foods that contain them.
Apart from including healthy fats by consuming whole foods and keeping a balance of the right kind of fats, there are certain other lifestyle changes:
Stop treating vegetables as a side dish!
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables protects against various lifestyle diseases including diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. Fruits & vegetables are the highest sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals which helps in reducing inflammation in the body. However, to attain the maximum health benefits, the consumption of fruits and vegetables should be increased. They should be the main component of your meals rather than being a side dish. Eat a combination of cooked as well as raw vegetables daily in every meal to ensure all the vitamins and minerals intake in adequate amounts. Fill your half plate with vegetables.
Limit processed foods
Processed foods are low in nutrients and high in refined carbohydrates and trans fats. They’re also usually high in artificial ingredients that promote inflammation in the body. Even if you are eating “Heathy” market biscuits and breads on a regular basis, they are also actually depleting the good bacteria in your gut.
- Skip highly processed foods, like fast food, packaged, and instant foods.
- Steer clear of processed meats, like deli meats, bacon, sausage, hotdogs, and pepperoni.
- Avoid sodas, sports & energy drinks.
Include a variety of grains
Just sticking to wheat flour or rice can result in developing food sensitivity. Consuming only one type of grain can inflame your gut causing various diseases. Try including 2-3 different grains (preferable whole grains) like Quinoa, ragi, jowar, bajra, etc. Or a combination of these grains can also work. Limiting gluten-containing grains will help in reducing inflammation and will also improve overall gut health.
Start supplementing your diet!
Certain nutrients are not present in sufficient amounts in food to meet the body’s requirement. Deficiencies of these nutrients can play a contributory role in the development of various diseases by promoting inflammation in the body. Therefore, supplementing your diet with certain vitamins & minerals can help you to achieve good gut and heart health.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is increasing day by day among individuals. Most of the dietary sources of vitamin b12 are present in animal foods. Therefore, for vegetarians it is very important to include supplements of vitamin b12 with the help of a physician. Low vitamin B12 levels cause low energy levels and slow down metabolism and thus promote fat accumulation in the body.
Almost 90% of Indians are deficient in vitamin D, the main reason being less exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in obesity. If you find it difficult to lose weight then do a test for this vitamin deficiency.
Have a look at some of the healthy fats recipes from My22BMI for eg. https://my22bmi.com/tag/healthy-fats
My22BMI is a digital healthcare startup addressing the problem of managing lifestyle diseases through personalized diet plans. My22BMI empowers lives to eat healthily and smartly and believe food should be your first medicine. The expert health coaches provide personalized diet plans for heart health, gut health, skin & hair health, weight management, mother & child nutrition, and hormonal health.
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