Taking care of your heart starts at the table Taking care of your heart starts at the table

Choosing the food that goes on your plate and having good alternatives to season foods is key.

 Advisors: Lina Marcela López – Nutritionist and dietitian
Sandro Gómez – Nutritionist

A broken heart doesn’t only come from heartbreak. What is pleasing to the palate can harm it, weaken it and even put it at risk. For a long time, it has been said that we are what we eat; but being smart about what we put on our plate requires knowledge and resourcefulness.

According to Lina Marcela López Gómez, a nutritionist and dietitian, about 50% of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented by making changes to our diet. To do so, it is important to eat certain foods in moderation, know what the properties of different foods are and opt for eating non-processed foods.

Learn to make changes

There are many ways to achieve this. According to the WHO, the strategy with sodium is to reduce your consumption of preserved foods, and use condiments that are low in sodium in order to replace the need for salt. The suggestion is to try using pepper, paprika, mint, nutmeg, garlic, lemon, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, vinegar or cinnamon, to name a few.

As our nutritionist states, lowering your sodium intake can prevent high blood pressure in about 20% of people who are at a higher risk of it and can also reduce your need to use medications for high blood pressure for people who have a high cardiovascular risk.

As for fats and ultra-processed foods, there are several alternatives. With fats, consuming oily fish regularly (such as salmon), reducing your intake of red meats, and increasing your intake of chicken, for example, are good places to start.

The same goes for olive oil, which according to our nutritionist Sandro Gómez Maquet, is recommended “…for sautéing foods or for using it as a salad dressing. The key is to not bring it to high temperatures in order to preserve its properties.”

 As for foods made with processed ingredients, the solution is simple: go natural. The reason for this is because these ingredients often contain substances such as starches, sugars, oils, salt and some food additives. These ingredients can raise your cholesterol, your blood pressure and contribute to insulin resistance, which increases your risk for the onset of diabetes.

What are ultra-processed foods? These include products like packaged snacks, certain breakfast cereals, granola bars, energy drinks, instant soups, bouillon cubes, processed meats, ready-made pizzas and packaged baby food.

When it comes to sugar, the best alternative is fructose, which comes directly from fruit itself. The sugar that comes in soft drinks, fruit juices and certain candies can be harmful to your health, increasing triglycerides, cholesterol, uric acid and blood pressure. Learning how to read the labels is important when it comes to making the right decisions at the supermarket.

A smart eating plan

 According to the nutritionist Sandro Gómez Maquet, the American Heart Association suggests a plan known as the DASH plan, which is an eating plan to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, decrease the risk of having a heart attack and, of course, lose weight. “It’s based on eating fiber – which means fruits and vegetables – reducing your fat intake, choosing lean meats, and reducing your intake of fried foods and your portion sizes.” According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the DASH diet involves consuming a lot of vegetables, fruits and non-fat or low-fat dairy products; eating whole grains, fish, poultry and lean meats; reducing your intake of salt, red meat, candy and sugary drinks; and reducing or avoiding alcoholic beverages.

Cardioprotective food

The following is the latest group of the foods that, according to different studies, are good options for taking care of your cardiovascular health.

1. Olive oil. Because it is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, is a good source of phytosterols and antioxidants, consuming olive oil is considered to reduce the risk of developing first-time myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) by 70%. According to nutritionist Lina Marcela López, consuming 54 grams a day, about 3 tablespoons, can bring health benefits.

2. Fruits and vegetables. Because they are low in fat and rich in fiber and nutrients such as sterols, carotenoids, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, fruits and vegetables help reduce cardiovascular disease.

3. Nuts. This food group is a good source of calories consisting mostly of unsaturated fatty acids, which have cholesterol-lowering effects and can help replace saturated fatty acids. The benefits of nuts come from their high content of fiber, folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and minerals that help prevent high blood pressure such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and antioxidants.

4. Tea. Its positive effects are associated with it being rich in flavonoids (antioxidants), as it prevents the oxidation of LDL (commonly referred to as bad cholesterol) therefore preventing cardiovascular risk.

5. Dark chocolate. Similar to tea, this food is also high in flavonoids, which allows it to have a cardioprotective effect due to its antioxidant, antiplatelet and anti-inflammatory actions, helping to keep your blood pressure under control.

6. Fiber. As López explains, due to its cardioprotective, antihypertensive and antithrombotic effect, fiber helps keep your cholesterol under control and moderates your blood sugar levels after eating food. It can be found in foods such as wheat bran, legumes, fruits, vegetables, soy, oats, barley and some yeasts.

 Related: The recipe for a younger heart