Love your heart by choos­ing heart-healthy plant-based foods more of­ten


The month of Fe­bru­ary might fea­ture Valen­tine’s choco­late, but with 1.3 mil­lion Cana­di­ans liv­ing with heart disease it’s also a time to fo­cus on hearthealthy foods.

A healthy, bal­anced diet should con­sist of a va­ri­ety of nat­u­ral, whole and min­i­mally pro­cessed foods, says Carol Dom­brow, a Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion di­eti­tian.

“This mes­sage ... is never go­ing to change. No mat­ter what they find, what­ever new re­search comes out, this is still go­ing to be an im­por­tant mes­sage,” she says.

The think­ing on healthy eat­ing has changed in re­cent years. Rather than fo­cus­ing on sin­gle nu­tri­ents and highly re­stric­tive di­ets that aren’t sus­tain­able, re­search shows the over­all qual­ity of one’s diet is more im­por­tant.

“We’re ask­ing peo­ple to eat more veg­eta­bles and fruit, to have a va­ri­ety of pro­tein sources, so in­clude beans and legumes, in­clude lower-fat dairy and al­ter­na­tives, lean meat, poultry, fish. Have whole grains more of­ten and stay away from highly pro­cessed foods,” the Toronto-based di­eti­tian says.

Heart disease is the sec­ondlead­ing cause of death and the lead­ing cause of dis­abil­ity, says Dom­brow. Nine in 10 Cana­di­ans have at least one risk fac­tor for heart disease and stroke.

But many risk fac­tors are in your power to con­trol. This in­cludes hav­ing a healthy diet and main­tain­ing a healthy weight, be­ing phys­i­cally ac­tive and smoke-free, lim­it­ing al­co­hol con­sump­tion and re­duc­ing stress. It’s also im­por­tant to man­age blood choles­terol lev­els and di­a­betes, also a risk fac­tor for heart disease, she adds.

“The sim­plest mes­sage is to make half your plate veg­eta­bles and fruit. They’re go­ing to give you so many nu­tri­ents, an­tiox­i­dants, vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, fi­bre,” says Dom­brow. “They’re pos­i­tive from a healthy weight per­spec­tive.”

The rest of the plate should be one-quar­ter each whole grains and lean pro­tein.

There’s a strong body of re­search show­ing the Mediter­ranean diet has been linked to bet­ter heart health, says regis­tered di­eti­tian Zan­nat Reza. This tra­di­tional way of eat­ing in Italy and Greece in­cludes a high ra­tio of veg­eta­bles and fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, pulses and olive oil.

Reza likes to put a Cana­dian spin on it, fea­tur­ing hearthealthy in­gre­di­ents grown and pro­duced in this coun­try.

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