New Delhi: ‘Healthy lifestyle’ a common phrase that has come under much scrutiny over the last couple years, has some of us checking our calorie count with every meal intake, and most of us aiming to achieve it, but never being able to. Despite alarming facts that reveal the sorry state of the Indian population’s heart health, and India accounting for approximately 60 per cent of the world’s heart diseases, it becomes an important consideration.
We know that hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity can impact our health negatively. These can be caused by our poor lifestyle choices. Our sedentary lifestyles have led to reduced levels of physical activity, coupled with the lack of moderation and imbalance in our food habits that include excess consumption of processed foods high in refined sugar, salt and high-in fat consisting of saturated and trans-fat. The key to minimising health risks is not as hard as you may think. Starting small and adopting simple dietary and lifestyle changes can help in maintaining overall heart health.
Choose granola bars over Indian dessert
We Indians have a sweet tooth and crave for something sweet with our meals, but most of the time we go overboard with the consumption of desserts which have excessive amount of sugar. Over consumption of sugar for long period of time accumulates as fat in the body causing weight gain. Even though sugar is part of our regular diet one needs to be mindful about the consumption pattern, portion sizes and should go for a snack which is more ideal.
Granola bars are a quick snack for those who need a power boost but make sure you use low amounts of sugar. Homemade granola bars can be made at home with oats, berries, edible seeds and dry fruits that are high sources of fibre and protein. Soluble fibre helps to reduce LDL levels i.e., bad cholesterol and blood pressure which will keep your heart healthy.
Swap fruit juices with whole fruits
Consuming whole fruits in the morning helps in better absorption of vitamins from the fruits. However, people choose the convenient option and consume fruit juices.
Natural and canned fruit juices are a concentrated sources of sugars without the benefit of fibre. Hence, it is advisable to include whole fruits as part of your breakfast, which have nutrients like fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Seasonal fruits can be a good way to include fruits in your breakfast every day.
Choose blended oils over single seed oils
Our day-to-day cooking requires oil in almost all our meals, therefore choosing the right oil is a simple change for overall health. Though single seed oils like ground nut, soybean, canola etc. do have health benefits, they are not enough to provide the right balance of fatty acids which are recommended in our diet.
A healthier switch would be opting for multi-source oils, also known as blended oils. Blended oils with antioxidants have multiple benefits like providing nutrition from fats and improving immunity. It is prepared by combining two or more oils into one to obtain benefits of two oils in one. They are scientifically blended to provide good balance of MUFAs and PUFAs that help manage cholesterol.
Choosing a blended oil like Saffola Gold Blended Oil as part of your everyday diet can help in keeping your heart healthy. It has natural antioxidants that help build immunity and gives you benefits of oryzanol that helps lower your cholesterol. Additionally, it has LOSORB technology which helps in absorbing lower quantities of oil during frying compared to other cooking oils. The oil is a blend of Rice Bran Oil which is rich in MUFA and Sunflower Oil which is rich in PUFA; and hence, gives you a good balance of MUFA and PUFA, which is beneficial for your heart health.
Lower sodium and saturated fat rich snack foods
The American Heart Association and Indian Council of Medical Research recommend ideal consumption of sodium to be no more than 2000 mg a day. Processed foods like chips, crackers or white bread as an evening snack has become a norm amongst adults these days and these foods are usually high in sodium and saturated fat. It is important to check nutritional labels before purchasing processed foods to assess the amount of sodium and saturated fat you are consuming. You can also opt for a healthy switch and consume foods like fruits, sprouts, oats, yogurt or millet based foods for snacks.
Swap fast food with healthy alternatives
Working professionals living sedentary lifestyles tend to depend on fast food to satisfy their hunger pangs. Fast food could have excess amounts of saturated fats, refined sugar and sodium, increasing the possibility of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol imbalance.
To counter this, a simple habit of eating healthy alternatives like hummus wrap, savoury oatmeal, and millet dosas can be relished. Chickpeas, oats, millet flour and veggies have great source of plant-based protein and fiber which improves your good gut bacteria and have low glycemic Index that helps to control blood sugar levels. Leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage, fenugreek leaves, kale and collard greens are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals that promote overall health and heart health.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming, especially with all the information out there. However, breaking down your health goals and making simple, easy changes to your everyday habits can help achieve a healthy lifestyle.
(N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe can be contacted at email@example.com)