In days gone by, women used to be taught how to cook to a high standard so that they could attract a husband and look after him once they were married. Gender roles have become a little more blurred in the past few years (for better, not worse, no matter what the unenlightened try to tell you) and the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is no longer widely used.
However, given the proven link between poor diet and heart disease, a better phrase might be “the way to protect a man’s heart is through his stomach”. It’s important that everyone eats a balanced diet, not only to prevent weight gain (which itself can lead to all sorts of health issues) but also to limit the build-up of bad (LDL) cholesterol and ensure that cardiovascular disease doesn’t develop.
With that in mind, what are the things we should be eating and what should we be avoiding?
Three things to look for:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Although they’re not quite as effective at preventing the onset of cardiovascular disease as some people would have you believe, studies have shown that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can be protective against myocardial infarction and cardiac death. They also decrease the risk of a stroke occurring.
Find them in…oily fish, walnuts, eggs
Consuming as much soluble fibre as possible is not only beneficial for bowel regularity but also decreases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It helps to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure, thus lessening the likelihood of further problems occurring as a result.
Find it in…oats, berries, almonds, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes
A common misconception is that all fat is bad for you and you should only have small quantities of it. However, there are good types of fat – monounsaturated fat, for example, has been proven to reduce the level of LDL cholesterol within the body, and possibly even increase the amount of good cholesterol taken in. The Mediterranean diet, which heavily features foods rich in monounsaturated fats, is considered proof that these fats are good for us given the low cardiovascular disease statistics for the region.
Find it in…avocadoes, red meat, olive oil, popcorn
Three things to avoid:
These are the kinds of fats that need to be avoided wherever possible, because they significantly bump up the amounts of bad cholesterol within the body and this then leads to cardiovascular issues. Animal fat products are the worst offenders as far as saturated fat is concerned, in addition to pre-prepared supermarket foods that are cooked in the oven or microwave. Trans fats are produced industrially from vegetable fats and are heavily used in the fast food and baked goods industries.
Find saturated fat in…cheese, butter, pizza, sausages
Find trans fats in…margarine, biscuits, pastries
Sugar is generally considered by practically everyone to have negative effects, but it’s good for us in the right form. Unfortunately, a lot of the sugar we consume is refined, which is associated with high levels of LDL cholesterol. The natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables are the ones we need to maintain healthy levels of glucose and fructose in our systems.
Find it in…sweets, milk and white chocolate, fizzy drinks, ice cream, tomato ketchup
Salt, usually referred to as sodium on food packaging ingredients labels, has long been considered a significant contributing factor when it comes to the development of conditions such as hypertension and general cardiovascular disease. Natural salt in food is unavoidable (and tend to only be present in small quantities anyway) but salt is also added to processed food, and this should be avoided wherever possible.
Find it in…crisps, bacon, soy sauce, roasted nuts