A healthy diet is your best defence against cardiovascular disease and that’s why it is so important to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
Why is diet so important?
Your diet is the fuel that your body uses to get energy and repair itself.
If your diet only consists of red meat and potatoes or junk food, you will lack some of the essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs to function AND you will be loading your body with too much unhealthy fat.
Plan today for a healthy tomorrow
We know it is easy to pick up a take away or a pie when we are feeling hungry.
Good nutrition requires a little planning ahead – but it is worth it!.
Make a list of ingredients that you can use during the week to prepare healthy meals.
Ensure that there are wholegrains, legumes e.g. beans, vegetables and fruit, fish and lean protein options, as well as fat free or low fat dairy on your list.
Who said healthy was boring?
Check out some of these delicious and healthy recipes to get you started on the road to good health.
Good health food checklist
• Plenty of fruit and vegetables
• Plenty of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Choose wholegrain varieties wherever possible.
• Pulses such as lentils and beans
• Low fat or fat-free milk and dairy products
• Skinless white meat
• Ostrich meat
• Olive, rapeseed, avocado oils
• Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna and pilchards
• Processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt
• Butter, cream and whole milk
• Fatty red meat
• Pastry and cakes
• Saturated and trans fats
• Fried foods
• Sugary drinks
Fruit and vegetables
A well-balanced diet should include at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
Try to vary the types of fruit and vegetables you eat. They can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned.
A portion is about a handful (80g), for example:
4 broccoli florets
3 heaped tablespoons of green beans
To help look after your heart health it is important to keep an eye on how much fat you are eating as well as making sure you choose the right type of fats.
So to help keep your heart healthy:
• Cut right down on saturated fats
• Replace saturated fats with small amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats
• Reduce the overall amount of fat you eat
• Cut down on foods containing trans fats.
• It’s also important to remember that all fats and oils are high in calories, so even the unsaturated fats should only be used in small amounts.
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Unsaturated fats, which can be monounsaturated fats (for example olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, unsalted cashews and avocado) or polyunsaturated fats (including sunflower oil and vegetable oil, walnuts and sunflower seeds), are a healthier choice.
Omega-3 fats are a particular type of polyunsaturated fat, usually found in oily fish that can help protect heart health.
Try to have at least one portion of oily fish a week e.g. fresh tuna, fresh or tinned salmon, sardines, pilchards and mackerel.
If you have had a heart attack, aim for two to three portions a week.
Another type of fat, known as trans fat, can also raise the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Eating too much salt can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, (HSFSA) South Africans generally consume more salt (sodium) than the recommended maximum of 5 g salt/day.
A high salt and low potassium and calcium intake can also contribute to high blood pressure.
Apart from the salt that we add to food and salt based flavourings, bread and cereals are the major contributors to total sodium intake from processed food in South Africans.
Bread provides the greatest contribution to total dietary sodium intake.
Processed meat is also a source of salt such as bacon, boerewors and other sausages, pies, polony, biltong, ham and viennas.
Flavour enhancers which are added to soup powders and many other foods such as maize meal also adds to a high salt intake.
Bread is an unexpected supply of sodium in our diets. Just 3-4 slices of bread with margarine provides almost half of the recommended daily salt intake.
If you drink alcohol, it’s important to keep within the recommended guidelines - whether you drink every day, once or twice a week or just occasionally.
Drinking alcohol to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is not recommended. However, if alcohol is usually consumed, it should be limited to:
• 2 drinks/day for men
• 1 drink/day for women
• Drinking 3 or more alcoholic drinks/day increases the risk of high blood pressure, so more is not recommended.
One drink is equivalent to:
• 340ml beer
• 120ml wine
• 60ml sherry
• 25ml spirits (whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin etc.)
• 25ml liqueur
A glass of wine a day – good thing?
There are studies which have shown that low to moderate alcohol consumption may:
• May increase HDL (‘good’) cholesterol.
• May have an anti-clotting effect on blood.
• Greatest protective effect in men over 40 and post-menopausal women as they are the highest risk groups.
• Has little protective effect in younger people as they are generally not at high risk for heart disease.
If you are taking medication for heart disease, check with your doctor before consuming alcohol.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation warns that excessive alcohol consumption can increase many health risks including high blood pressure, heart failure and increased levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood.
Binge drinking can lead to a stroke.
Other serious effects are heart muscle damage, heart rhythm disturbances and sudden cardiac death.
It may also contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and liver disease.
Calorie Value of alcohol
Alcohol is high in energy food and consumption should be limited as excessive intake can also lead to overweight and obesity.
If you are going to drink try to make better choices.
Spirits with soft drinks
Regular beers or ciders
Dom Pedro’s or Irish coffees
Spirits with water, soda or diet soft drinks