Having a healthy heart usually means living a long and healthy life, and caring for your heart can be as simple as developing healthy habits and following a balanced diet every day.
As with all habits, variety and moderation are the key to success when it comes to food.
There are a number of heart healthy foods you can incorporate into your diet to achieve healthy cholesterol levels without completely eliminating your favourite meals and desserts.
The following foods are nutritional powerhouses that are heart healthy, easily available and delicious. These natural superfoods can complement any diet and adding them to your daily meals can help to lower cholesterol.
Oily or fatty fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential components of a balanced diet, as they regulate many important functions.
They can help prevent heart-related diseases while lowering low-density lipoproteins (LDL), otherwise known as bad cholesterol.
The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommend the frequent consumption of fish, with a daily serving if possible.
Locally available fatty fish include herring (ikan parang), trout (ikan kerapu) and salmon.
Prepare the fresh fish with some fresh herbs and garlic for a delicious and simple meal.
Rich in protein and dietary fibre, nuts are well-known to help reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Try almonds, cashews, and even sunflower seeds (kuaci) and pumpkin seeds, as a delicious, convenient snack at any time of the day.
Do remember to consume unsalted and unsweetened nuts for optimum health benefits, and keep an eye on the portions, as nuts are high in calories. They make a healthy snack and can also be added to salads and breakfast cereals to boost the protein content, which keeps you full for longer.
Foods made from soy are low in saturated fat, rich in protein, as well as vitamins A, B and C, making it a healthy and filling option to add to your plate.
In view of their high nutrient content, soy can be a protein-rich alternative to meat.
Tempeh, tofu, soya bean milk and soy nuts are some soy-rich foods that can be incorporated into your diet.
Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are abundant in many vitamins and minerals, so have as much as you can in your diet.
They also contain dietary fibre, which helps lower cholesterol in the body and gives a feeling of fullness for a longer time, making them an essential and substantial part of your daily food intake.
Regularly consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables every day is a good start towards better health. Some commonly available types include apples, oranges, carrots, tomatoes and leafy greens such as sawi, spinach (bayam) and kailan.
An all-natural substance, plant sterols are effective at lowering cholesterol levels as they block the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream.
Foods rich in plant sterols include wheat germ, wheat bran, nuts, beans, tomatoes and carrots, but they need to be consumed in large amounts to visibly lower cholesterol levels.
A practical alternative is to regularly drink milk formulations containing plant sterols.
Switching up your morning meals and incorporating two servings of oats daily can help lower your cholesterol.
Oats are rich in a soluble fibre called beta-glucan that binds cholesterol in the intestines, preventing it from being absorbed into your blood.
This also improves your bowel function.
There are many creative ways to make oats tasty, such as spicing them up with a dash of honey or a handful of berries, making it a healthy breakfast dish.
Consumed regularly while maintaining a moderate and balanced diet with low total fat intake, these foods can help to lower cholesterol.
However, healthy eating forms just one part of the holistic approach to taking care of your heart health. An active lifestyle with consistent physical activity should also be practiced, and regular medical check-ups should be taken to check on cholesterol levels.
By putting all these steps in place, everyone can start their journey towards better heart health.