Healthy eating resolutions for 2020

A new year often signifies a fresh start for many people. For some, this means starting an exercise routine, losing weight or following a healthier diet. It is important to remember that our diet pattern has the power to reduce the risk of chronic diseases over our lifetime and together with a healthy lifestyle it is extremely important to prevent illness.

Very often, within a few weeks of setting our new year health and wellness resolutions, we realise that they are unsustainable due to multiple reasons like work and family commitments, inability to take time off our busy schedules, failure to prioritise our health etc. and we end up breaking our resolutions. Thus we find ourselves making the same resolutions year after year. To break that cycle, we need to make resolutions that can not only improve health but also be followed in our day to day lives. The secret is to set simple and easy goals that are easy to follow and are also sustainable.

Here are some examples of attainable and sustainable healthy eating resolutions:

Goal No 1: Eat out less often

During peak working days and holidays, people eat out a lot at restaurants or other roadside shops due to work demands and lack of time to cook meals. When you eat out, you have less control over what you are actually eating. Moreover, a kind of addiction develops to the outside food, ultimately leading to consuming extra fat, salt, and sugar on a daily basis. Try to avoid or minimise the consumption of outside foods.

Goal No 2: Reduce your added sugar intake, little by little

Added sugars are sugars added during the making of processed (packaged) food and drinks and the sugar we add to our home-made beverages and dishes. Added sugar should be cut down gradually as it causes serious health issues, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high triglyceride levels and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Goal No 3: Add veggies to your breakfast

One health-protective habit is to fill half of every plate or bowl with non-starchy veggies. For most people that is easier to do for lunch and dinner than for breakfast. So try to incorporate one serving (that is 80 grams) of vegetables in your breakfast meal.

Goal No 4: Eat two cups of fruits

Fruits are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. High fibre in fruits helps to regulate body metabolism. It is advisable to consume at least 2 cups of fruits (that is 150 – 200 grams) daily.

Goal No 5: Incorporate more probiotics and prebiotics into your diet

Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food components that are linked to promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. The best choices are bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, and whole-wheat bread. Probiotics are active cultures that help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. Consuming probiotics may boost immunity and improve overall gut health and the best sources are yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. Having a combination of prebiotics and probiotics in our diet can be a very powerful step to improving our overall health.

Simple tips for a healthier diet and lifestyle

  • Drink at least 1.5 litres to 2 litres of water per day
  • Follow mindful eating, that is chew food properly, eat slowly and avoid watching any screen/gadgets while eating
  • Aim to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day; add more colour in your meals with plant-based foods
  • Include whole grains instead of refined ones
  • Say no to junk foods, processed and preserved foods which are high in trans fat, preservatives, salt and sugar
  • Read the food labels and choose foods that are low fat, fat-free, no added sugar, zero trans fat and no preservatives
  • Try to include small, healthy meals; do not skip meals especially your breakfast
  • Aim for good quality sleep of around 7-8 hours per day

Setting small, sustainable, realistic goals is really the key to success in making habit changes. Any simple diet change is easier if we take slow and small steps. Resolve to make a few small resolutions this year and then just watch how far you go. If you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with heart disease, we recommend that you consult your dietician or your healthcare team to get guidance on the most relevant diet goals for your health condition.

Healthy diet, adequate exercise, sufficient sleep and well-managed stress levels together help to enhance our health and the quality of life. So go ahead and set some simple and achievable goals for a healthy body and mind. Be in the present, avoid distractions, savour every bite and enjoy every meal!

Control high blood pressure by eating right

With high blood pressure or hypertension being the most widespread cause of heart disease and stroke, let us try to understand the ideal eating pattern to prevent and control hypertension.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a flexible and balanced diet plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for our life. This DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that is designed to prevent and control high blood pressure.

The goal of DASH diet is to encourage people to reduce salt in their diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, that help lower blood pressure.

There are two versions of the DASH diet:

  • Standard DASH diet.You can consume up to 2,300 mg (or) 1 teaspoon of salt a day. This is meant for anyone who wishes to adopt a healthy food pattern to prevent heart and blood vessel problems.
  • Lower sodium DASH diet.You can consume up to 1,500 mg (or) ¾ teaspoon of salt per day. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, swelling or edema of feet or have heart failure this is the salt level that is ideal for you.

Foods to be included more in your daily diet

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy
  • Whole-Grains
  • Lean Meat, Fish, & Poultry
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes

Foods to be kept to a minimum

  • Sodium (salt)
  • Sugar / Sweets
  • Fatty meats
  • Saturated and Trans Fats

Now, let us see the recommended Daily Servings for the healthy food groups:

  1. Vegetables: 4-5 servings
    1 serving = 250 ml (1 cup) raw green leafy vegetables; 125 ml (½ cup) cooked vegetables

Examples: Broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, mushroom, brussels sprouts, spinach and other greens or veggies etc

Advantages: Vegetables are packed with potassium, magnesium as well as fibre and vitamins.

  1. Fruits : 4-5 servings
    1 serving = 1 medium piece of fruit; ½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit

Examples: Bananas, apples, grapes, berries, lemons, pineapple, apricots, tomato, oranges etc

Advantages: Fruits are great sources of fibre, potassium, and magnesium and low in fat. They can easily be enjoyed as a snack or a side dish with other main courses.

Note: If you go for canned fruit or juice, make sure no sugar is added.

  1. Grains (mainly whole grains): 6-8 servings

1 serving = 1 slice whole-wheat bread; 125 ml (½ cup) cooked rice, pasta or cereal

Examples: Bread, wheat, brown rice, pasta, oats, millets etc

Advantages: Always focus on whole grains instead of refined grains because it is low fat and nutrient-dense with many essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, B vitamins and zinc.

  1. Dairy Products (low fat): 2-3 servings

1 serving = 1 cup of skimmed milk (or) low fat yoghurt

Examples: Milk, yogurt, cheese etc

Advantages: Dairy provides plenty of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. However, aim for low fat or fat-free dairy, since dairy can otherwise be loaded with fat.

  1. Lean meat, Poultry and Fish: 2 servings or less

1 serving = 3 ounces of lean meat, poultry and fish

Note: The area of your palm covers 3 ounces of meat

Examples: Chicken, fish, egg etc

Advantages: Meat can be a rich source of protein, iron, B vitamins and zinc. Take heart- healthy fish such as tuna, salmon and herring which provides omega 3 fatty acids to reduce your bad cholesterol.

  1. Nuts, Seeds and Legumes: 4-5 servings per week

1 serving = 1/3 cup nuts; 2 tablespoons seeds;1/2 cup cooked beans or peas.

Examples: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, peas, lentils, peanuts etc

Advantages: Seeds and legumes are good sources of protein, magnesium, and potassium. They’re also protective against certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease due to their phytochemicals content.

  1. Fats and Oils: 2-3 servings per day

1 serving = 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Examples: Olive oil, canola oil, safflower, sunflower, soybean etc

Advantages: Fat helps your body’s immune system and allows you to absorb vitamins. However, too much of fat increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. 

Keep away from trans fats, found commonly in processed and fried food.

Health Benefits of the DASH diet

  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol
  • Helps in weight management

More DASH Tips

  • If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add another serving at lunch and dinner.
  • If you don’t eat fruit now or have only juice at breakfast, add a serving of fruit to your meals or switch out your juice for the whole fruit.
  • Opt for low fat or skimmed dairy when you might normally do full fat or cream.
  • Snack on nuts, raisins, unsalted and unbuttered popcorn or frozen yogurt rather than salty chips and cookies.
  • Use low fat or fat free condiments, and try reducing your salad dressing amounts by half. Home-made salad dressing consisting of pepper powder, lime juice, jeera powder and olive oil is a good alternative to store-purchased dressings.
  • Beware of the hidden salt lurking in pre-processed foods like ready-to-eat noodles, papadums, canned foods, ketchup and cooking pastes/powders.

5 Things to remember about a routine health check

A routine medical examination is something we all need to have every year after the age of 40. This is the only way to catch cardiovascular risk factors early and take preventive measures before heart disease strikes. But there are so many different health check packages available that most people are confused as to which tests to go for. If you’d like to get some clarity on this, do take a few minutes to read this post.

  1. Health-related behavior

It is imperative to know if you’re eating a balanced diet, exercising adequately, sleeping well, keeping away from tobacco products and excessive alcohol and are free from psychosocial problems like chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Since assessment of these behavioral aspects has to be done objectively and without bias, it is best left to your healthcare professional.

  1. Simple but vital numbers

Some things are very easy to keep track of: your weight, your body mass index, your waist and hip circumferences, your breath rate, heart rate and your blood pressure. It will take you less than 5 minutes to measure and note down all these simple but salient markers of heart health. Blood pressure measurement can be done at home if you own a digital blood pressure monitor.

  1. Blood tests

Blood sugar and cholesterol levels should be measured empty stomach after an overnight fast. Hemoglobin level in the blood needs to be checked regularly as anemia (low blood hemoglobin) is a frequently missed but easily treatable cause of illness.

  1. Electrocardiogram

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a non-invasive test whereby the electrical activity of the heart is studied while you lie down comfortably. Abnormal waveforms in the ECG are quite often the first clue to serious heart conditions. Your physician will be able to assess your health with all these parameters and will also request for some symptom-guided tests if necessary.

 

5. Symptom-guided tests

Let us say you have noted some difficulties in performing your daily activities or are experiencing joint pains or have frequent heartburns; then one or more special tests such as stress test (also called treadmill test, TMT) and echocardiogram may be needed to better understand your health status. An annual dental and eye examination is a must for all, even if there are no complaints.

Remember these 5 things when you’re due for your next health check. They go hand in hand to throw light on your heart health as well as your overall wellness. In addition to this, regular screening tests such as Pap smear and mammogram in women and PSA level (prostate specific antigen) in men is a must.

There are hormonal assays, vitamin D levels and bone scans, ultrasound scans, renal and liver function tests and several other panels of investigations, which are to be called for only when you have specific complaints. Getting them done on a routine basis is unwarranted.

At Cardiac Wellness Institute, prevention of cardiovascular disease is our primary goal. If you have any queries or concerns pertaining to your routine health check up, you may talk to us or email us (for contact details see www.cardiacwellnessinstitute.com).

Sitting for long hours is best avoided

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People with heart disease who sit for a long time have worse health even if they exercise regularly. Limiting the amount of time we spend on sitting may be as important as the amount we exercise. Sitting, watching television, working at a computer and driving are all sedentary behaviours and we need to take breaks from them.

While regular exercise is key to preventing heart disease, obesity and diabetes, limiting the time we spend not moving during the day has emerged as another important aspect of good health. Long hours of sitting need to be broken up with periodic standing or walking around.

Sitting for long periods of time and not using your muscles will have adverse effects on our body. While a person is sedentary (usually sitting and not active) there is a reduced uptake of glucose and fats, which then affects cholesterol and sugar levels. Breaking up your sedentary time will be beneficial in reducing the risk factors of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. We have to mobilize our muscles to burn oxygen and tap the fuel sources in our bodies. When sitting, there is no weight bearing or stress on the muscles—they aren’t stimulated and energy doesn’t get burned off.

Negative effects of being sedentary may be overcome by regular cardiovascular exercise and also by pushing your exercise limits. Recent research has shown that every extra hour of television viewing per day is associated with increased waist circumference, greater body mass index, and higher systolic blood pressure and triglycerides.

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Keys to Get Moving

  • Get up and move every 30 minutes
  • Stand up during TV commercials or, even better, do light exercises while watching TV
  • Drink lots of water (if your health condition permits) so it forces you to get up to go to the washroom
  • Take lunch breaks outside instead of in front of your work computer, and avoid gadgets while eating
  • Go to bed instead of sitting in front of the TV and get your daily quota of sleep

Monitor your activity patterns to find out when you are most sedentary and replace that with active hobbies