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How to Eat for a Healthier Heart

Posted Dec 23 2009 2:21pm

Indian FoodYou know what I love about South Asian Indian food? It is good for your body. Turmeric, dals (lentils), sabzis (vegetables) and yogurt are all foods that are healthy. The classic thaali (a South Asian meal offering a selection of small dishes, usually in a round steel tray), typically consists, of two rotis, ½ cup of dal, 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables, ½ cup of yogurt and ½ to 1 cup of salad is the perfect example of a well-balanced meal. But then why do so many of us who like Indian food have high cholesterol or have a family history of heart disease?

It could have something to do with the how snug your jeans feel around your tummy. Or, it could be the fact that you are too tired to exercise after work, taking care of the kids, or any of the things for which you are now responsible as an adult. It could be your blood pressure rising as you get stressed out about the traffic, work deadlines or the many small annoyances that trigger stress. Perhaps it could be abnormal cholesterol levels of which you are unaware because you haven’t gone for your physical in a while. It could even be a family history of diabetes and your current lifestyle that makes you a bit more prone to heart disease.

All or any one of these risk factors are little red flags to remind us to check that our daily habits align with our desire to be healthy.

Daily eating, exercising and stress management habits determine how healthy our heart will be. Lifestyle is a powerful tool. Many of us with busy lives just do not prioritize food or exercise. It is the first thing to give if we have a lot to accomplish that day. Exercise helps you not only lose weight or maintain a healthy weight but also can improve cholesterol levels and arterial wall damage. The best part? Exercise is also a stress reliever.

So what does it take to live healthier while eating food you like? Acknowledging our personal pitfalls can be a great start.

Common Pitfalls

Yes, many people love to celebrate with food. The fact is we often associate socializing with “special occasion foods,” which in most cases are high in saturated fat.

The cost of food indulgence may eventually lead to cholesterol-lowering medications, symptoms such as fatigue and chest pain and really just not feeling well enough to do all the things you used to enjoy doing. It may not happen today or tomorrow but eventually it can catch up with you.

Many of also eat or exercise differently on the weekends and weekdays. Weekends are when the parties happen and our portions tend to expand. Unhealthy eating habits might not just be about what you are eating but how much and how often you are eating.

All or any one of these risk factors are little red flags to remind us to check that our daily habits align with our desire to be healthy.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

- High Blood Pressure

- Smoking

- Physical Inactivity

- Dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol levels)

- Diabetes – Peripheral Insulin Insensitivity

- Increased Body Fat (Especially upper body waist obesity)

The secret to eating heart healthy is to make gradual changes and try adding more of your favorite fish, fruits and vegetables. Relinquish the “feast or famine” mentality and see how eating moderately at parties and on the weekend makes you feel. Heart healthy eating does not need to be all or nothing. Small steps can eventually lead to big results!

Visit ABCD Lady, an on-line magazine for the original full article and more tips for eating Heart Healthy Indian food.

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