More than three-fourth of the population of India falls in the ‘abnormal cholesterol level’ bracket – a condition that puts patients at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Government statistics indicate that cardiovascular diseases account for one-fourth of all deaths among people in the 25-69 years age group, out of which 25% of the deaths occur in people less than 40. Heart disease is catching us Indians young and doctors are warning of a heart disease epidemic. About 1.7 million Indian hearts stop beating every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
With statistics as scary as these, it is upon us, every individual Indian to do our bit and stop our country’s biggest killer. Your choice of food can go a long way in doing that – it is the best medicine for a healthy heart. Here’s a list of top 7 cholesterol fighting indian foods that should find a place in your plate sooner than later.
#1 High fiber foods such as oatmeal, bran, barley, pulses, etc: Soluble fiber is known to reduce the level of bad cholesterol i.e. low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by decreasing its absorption into the bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day is the recommended intake to lower your total and LDL cholesterol. Barley, in particular, is known to be a rich source of beta-glucan, a type of fibre that reduces cholesterol levels from 4%-10% depending on the amount consumed. Barley can act as an excellent wheat substitute and can be used easily in the indian diet in the form of rotis, khakras, daliya, noodles, soup, etc.
#2 Avocados: An avocado a day can keep the doctor away. Yes, being a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and oleic acid, avocados are cholesterol fighting superfood that can lower bad cholesterol while boosting the good one. They also regulate blood sugar levels thereby fighting diabetes and obesity. Many quick and easy indian recipes for salads, juices, and smoothies use avocado generously.
#3 Cinnamon: This super spice that adds flavour to many Indian recipes is known to significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, the bad LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels – not just for those with type 2 diabetes but for everyone. Sprinkling 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2-4 grams) of cinnamon powder a day on your tea, curries, or soups is sure to prove a great addition to your diet.
#4 Ginger: This medicinal marvel is a must-have when it comes to fighting bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and lowering blood sugar levels. It also boosts blood circulation, prevents stroke and heart attacks and aids in building the good cholesterol level in your body.
#5 Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and other tree nuts are good sources of both – mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and help regulate vascular health. Consuming just about a handful – 1.5 ounces i.e. 42.5 grams of nuts a day is enough to keep your heart healthy and give you that energy kick when fatigue strikes. So the next time you tend to reach out for that samosa or french fries for an evening snack break at office , control yourself and opt for a handful of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, or even our good old peanuts. Remember, don’t take the salted or sugary nuts and don’t overdo the amount.
#6 Fresh fruit and vegetable juices: Love a freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast? Your heart loves it too! Studies have found that people who drink up to 7 ounces of orange juice daily show a 7.2% decrease in their total cholesterol and a 12.4% decrease in their LDL cholesterol levels. Orange juice also boosts the levels of good cholesterol in our bodies. Other cholesterol reducing fruits and vegetables include pomegranate, celery, lemon, aloe vera, carrot, bottle gourd (lauki), etc.
#7 Healthy cooking oils like vegetable oils, soy, flax seed, groundnut oil, and rice bran: We Indians love our traditional food and most of our recipes use a generous amount of oil. Making smart choices in cooking oils is a must to stay heart healthy. Soya oil is a good source of soy protein which lowers total cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides without impacting the level of HDL i.e. good cholesterol. Rice bran oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that reduce LDL levels.
Getting heart smart is all about the lifestyle
While diet undoubtedly plays a major role in ensuring heart health, exercise, meditation, and a positive frame of mind are essential pillars too. Try a workout routine that interests you and keep varying it to so your interest doesn’t wane. If you feel excessive eating out is making you unhealthy, try dishing out interesting restaurant style meals at home with innovative meal kits that can be delivered right to your doorstep. It’s all about taking your health in your own hands and making that first move towards a healthier you.