Salad with whole wheat bread

6 March 2021 | Tags: Heart Healthy Foods, Mental Wellness, Stress Management, Weight Management

When you think of “healthy eating”, what comes to mind?

Perhaps lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, tossed in a colourful salad.  Or a nourishing stew filled with all the kinds of organic vegetables and grains.  Or perhaps a fresh loaf of dark rye bread, or a whole wheat pasta covered in a steaming tomato sauce.  Perhaps you dream of wild-caught salmon, steamed with delicate tarragon and served with a slice of lemon.  Or even a small tenderloin steak of grass-fed beef, coming from a local farm and delivered by someone whose name you actually know.

As you see, when we reflect on “healthy eating”, we invariably think of the ingredients themselves.   

Often too, we focus on a particular type of diet.  We may therefore believe that to be “healthy”, we should be eating a vegetarian diet, or that we must become vegan, or paleo, or keto, or clean food, or … you name it, the list goes on and on!  And it changes continually, depending on what comes to prominence in the media at any given time!

So, how exactly should we be thinking about the term “healthy eating”? 

Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  If we understand why we eat, we can then explore how to make what we consume keep us as healthy as possible!

What’s the Point of Food?

The British Nutrition Foundation defines a healthy, balanced diet as “eating the right sort of foods, in the right amounts to provide energy and nutrients for our bodies to function”.  Very importantly, it allows for a healthy body weight to be maintained given that this is critical for one’s overall state of health.

Eating healthily can help to boost our energy levels, improve our mood and our concentration, and reduce our stress levels; and drinking enough water is needed for the entire body to function optimally as well as to prevent symptoms such as dehydration-related headaches and fatigue.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), good nutrition is related to:

“stronger immune systems, (…) lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity.”  

Research has also shown that sticking to a healthy diet can even reduce the unfavourable effects of other heart disease risk factors such as depression and anxiety.

What Exactly Does Your Heart Need?

We can now see how food and hydration is foundational to our body’s ability to function healthily.   But what exactly should we do in terms of healthy eating for our heart?

Foods for a healthy heart
What you eat should nourish your heart

A heart-healthy diet is one that adheres to the current dietary guidelines on:

  • What to eat – in terms of fruit and vegetables; complex and wholegrain carbohydrates; fibre; dairy or dairy alternatives; pulses, fish, eggs, lean meat and other proteins; unsaturated oils and spreads
  • What to drink – meaning hydration through unsweetened fluids, and consuming alcohol in moderation,
  • What reduce or eliminate – in terms of salt, sugar, salt, and saturated fats. 

These dietary principles are incorporated into the various recommended dietary plans – for example, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association favour the Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet (with reduced salt), and the Healthy Vegetarian Diet; and the British Nutrition Foundation advocates the Eatwell Guide.

Whilst these dietary plans do vary, it is important to emphasise that do follow the health-healthy guidelines listed above. If you are thinking about changing your diet, you should explore what feels best for your body and discuss this with your doctor.

OUR TIPS to Improve Your Heart Health Today

We need the right types of food (ingredients), in the right quantities, and at the right times, to sustain our body’s systems and processes – and remember, we are talking here about our physical body as well as our mental and emotional state! 

So you see, there are three ‘rightswhen it comes to how you eat that you need to bear in mind:

  • Right types of food and drink (i.e. the ingredients)
  • Right quantities of food and drink
  • Right times for eating and drinking

Ignore any of these ‘rights’ – ingredients, quantities, or time – and your body will let you know! 

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need”. – Ayurvedic Proverb

By Katrine Smith Tulloch-Reid

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