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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020 cardiac disorders will become the prime cause of deaths globally. This Valentine’s Day, why not promise to love and cherish your heart by keeping it healthy? It is no surprise that diet plays an important role in keeping the heart happy.

Here is what you should be eating for a good healthy heart:

  • Focus on fruits and vegetables. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as antioxidants and flavonoids which lower your cholesterol and lipid profile, promoting good heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables all work well; you can even drink 100% pure juice and add legumes and lentils to your diet to meet your daily requirements.
    Spices such as cloves, garlic, ginger and turmeric, as well as vegetables such as onions, have excellent cholesterol lowering properties.
  • Know your fats. Different types of fats have different effects on the heart. Foods prepared with hydrogenated vegetable oils and shortenings, including cakes, chocolate, pastry and deep-fried fast food, are high in trans-fats which are harmful to your heart.Saturated fats are linked with raised levels of harmful (LDL) cholesterol, so go easy on processed foods, such as deli meats and sausages, and cut down on dairy products and animal fats, including butter, ghee, high fat cheese, cream and full fat milk. On the other hand, canola, rapeseed and olive oil and monounsaturated fats are beneficial for the heart.
  • Be ‘fishy’. Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fat, and fish is a rich source of this fatty acid which is heart-friendly. Everyone should try to have at least a portion of fish a week, while heart patients must include at least three portions per week to their diet. Herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna (fresh or frozen tuna only) are good sources of Omega 3. The plant source of Omega 3 is called ALA and is found in canola, flaxseed, rapeseed and olive oils and nuts. n

– Prof Dr Rashida Ali

The writer is adjunct professor and consultant, Department of Food Science and ICCBS, University of Karachi and English Biscuit Manufacturers.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of the DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on February 12, 2012.