You might be very particular about your diet and exercise regime and yet you could be at a risk of contracting heart-related ailments. Yes ladies, healthy food choices are not just limited to eating fruits and veggies—but about having a balanced diet. And that means your diet must contain all the nutrients in good measure, be it carbs, proteins or fat.
Now when it comes to fat, there are a barrage of misconceptions around what constitutes healthy fats. So, let’s break it down for you: monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart, and must be a part of your diet. And that brings us to a question most of us are perplexed about: which is the most heart-friendly oil?
On the occasion of World Heart Day, we have Dr. Arun Chopra, senior interventional cardiologist and Director of Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Amritsar, to clear all your doubts.
How do you know your cooking oil is healthy?
According to research by the National Institute of Nutrition in India, about 20% of your diet must be fulfilled by fats. In that case, what really matters is the kind of fat you consume.
“Although all cooking oils have the same number of calories per tablespoon, the amount of healthy fat known as ‘unsaturated’ fat varies. Oils with MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) (especially Omega-3 PUFA) are good for the heart,” Dr Chopra explains.
When you cook at high temperatures, the heat causes the oil to break down and produce harmful chemicals like peroxides and aldehydes. That’s exactly why oils that have high levels of polyunsaturated fats like flaxseed or sunflower oils are not advised, when heated at high temperatures.
“It is ideal to use a blend of cooking oils such as olive, groundnut, rice bran, mustard, and canola oil,” he says.
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Olive oil is the favourite of health freaks, especially because it is high in MUFA. They reduce the risk of heart disease, and keep your cholesterol levels in control. There’s also rice bran oil, which has a good balance of MUFA and PUFA. It has a nutty flavour, and works well even if you want to grill or saute your dishes!
When you use oil for salad dressings or sauces, there’s not much to worry about, because you aren’t heating the oil!
Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle
Apart from choosing the right oil, Dr. Chopra also advises people to follow a heart-healthy diet plan, such as the Mediterranean diet. It includes high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats like olive oil. It also propagates low intake of meat and dairy foods.
“A heart-healthy eating plan such as the Mediterranean diet is one of the critical aspects of managing cardiovascular diseases (CVD). It has been associated with significant reduction in CVD incidence or mortality. However, it is imperative to not count calories and go on complex diets. Incorporating two to three major meals in a day, and avoiding snacks is key,” he says.
That’s not all: Dr Chopra suggests that refined carbohydrates, trans-fatty acids, and excess salt must be kept to a minimum to prevent a negative impact on the heart. He also explains the role of diet and exercise to maintain good heart health.
“Processed and ready-to-eat foods contain large amounts of trans fats and sugar, and must be avoided. Besides, losing just five to 10% of your overall body weight can help in preventing plaque build-up. You must also get adequate physical activity for about 30 minutes a day to shed excess weight, and keep healthy and fit,” he concludes.
So ladies, think no more and follow these tips. After all, a healthy heart is a happy one!