Changing dietary habits is one of the main lifestyle modifications that you need to make if you have recently suffered a heart attack. Eating healthy will not only quicken your recovery process but also help you prevent other heart-related complications. Dr. Sundeep Mishra, Cardiologist at AIIMS, provides a detailed insight into the dietary changes for heart attack patients.
- Avoid overcooked meals: Although the Indian population is predominantly vegetarian, there is an increasing need for awareness about the consumption of vegetables and fruits among Indians. People tend to eat more of gravy preparations, which do not provide as much nutritional value as raw vegetables. Also, the use of oil and ghee makes the meal a rich source of fats and cholesterol, thereby adding to the risk of a heart attack. Even home-cooked food is less nutritious because we tend to overcook everything, which causes a loss of nutrients. As a heart patient, this can be a big concern. While recuperating from a heart attack, you may want to increase the consumption of vegetables with their nutritional value intact. Therefore, it is advisable to eat minimally cooked vegetables with simple preparations.
- Eat more green leafy vegetables and fibre-rich fruits: You could replace overcooked meals with salads, green leafy vegetables, like spinach, and fibre-rich fruits, like oranges. They are a good source of Vitamin K, which regulates blood pressure and improves the functioning of arteries, thereby promoting heart health. In addition, they contain antioxidants and fibre that help prevent heart disease.
- Lower the intake of salt: Sodium in salt directly increases blood pressure, which is not good for heart patients. It can increase your risk of having another heart attack. Even while eating outside, choose healthier options with low-sodium or salt-reduced preparations. Consumption of junk foods like chips, burgers and fries should be stopped completely, as they are all salt-rich foods.
- Avoid eating red meat: If you eat meat, then red meat is what you need to stay away from. It is extremely harmful to your heart. It contains saturated fat that increases cholesterol levels and can worsen your heart condition. Lean chicken is a better alternative when it comes to meat.
- Include eggs in your diet: Having an egg a day is fine, even while looking at a heart-healthy diet. It’s not the cholesterol in the egg yolk that may cause trouble, but the way the eggs are prepared and what’s eaten with them. It’s important to control the amount of saturated fat, like butter, oil and other forms of meat, that may add to the unhealthiness of the diet. Eggs by themselves have many good nutrients in them that would help build a good diet.
- Increase the intake of fish: Certain fish like salmon (Rawas) and mackerel (Bangada) are extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Fish can be consumed twice a week for a speedy recovery from a heart attack. Again, avoid fish preparations with oily gravy.
- Switch to healthy oil options: Indian meals are incomplete without the substantial use of oil. That’s something we should try to avoid. But, in the meanwhile, switching to a healthier oil will certainly make a difference. It’s best to use two types of oils like mustard oil and rice bran oil. They have a balance of unsaturated fatty acids, which is good for your heart health. In addition, they may also help reduce cholesterol levels. Also, reusing the same cooking oil multiple times should be strictly avoided. It increases free radicals, which can damage the blood vessels and heart tissue.
- Eliminate ghee from your diet: The use of vanaspati ghee and desi ghee is very common in India. However, they are both detrimental to heart health. Vanaspati ghee contains trans fats that raise the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body, which in turn increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke. In addition, it also lowers the level of good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. Desi ghee contains saturated fats, which again increases bad cholesterol levels.
- Eat whole grains instead of refined grains: Whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal and brown rice have a high amount of dietary fibre, which may help improve the good cholesterol levels in the body, thereby reducing the risk of heart problems. They are also a good source of essential vitamins that could help speed up your recovery and improve your heart functioning.