Experts regularly warn: high cholesterol can make you sick. So if too much of the blood fat is in the blood, the arteries become calcified. The result: arteriosclerosis, a widespread disease. In the worst case, it can even cause a stroke.
What many do not know: diseases that affect the heart and circulatory system can be specifically prevented. And with a permanent heart-healthy lifestyle. Senior physician Dr. Nagham Soda, nutritionist and specialist in anesthesiology at the RHÖN-KLINIKUM Campus Bad Neustadt. In the following article she talks about “good” and “bad” fats, trans fats – and foods that should be avoided.
Miss Dr. Soda and cardiovascular diseases are a widespread disease that troubles many people. How does such an accumulation of these clinical pictures come about?
A problem in the societies of the western world is the overweight of a large part of the population. There are many problems with this. Obesity is often related to poor nutrition and a significant lack of exercise. In addition, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors that promote heart and vascular diseases.
When it comes to heart problems, a high-fat diet is often blamed. Right?
Fat in itself is not a “bad” food that should be avoided by bending or breaking. We are talking about a valuable nutrient that the body basically needs. It must also be made clear that not all fat is the same. In fact, the quality of the fat matters more than the amount of fat. One should reduce saturated fats in one’s diet and avoid trans fats.
What foods are these saturated fats in?
In animal foods, for example in butter, high-fat sausages and cheese. You should also avoid the vegetable fats contained in coconut oil and palm oil, for example.
And where can you find the trans fats?
They are found in large quantities in processed foods, that is, in much of what is fried, baked, or fried. Here are the sweet bits from the bakery, as well as French fries, chips and ready-made meals.
Ok, so fat quality is important. And what about the crowd? How much fat can or should it be?
The German Nutrition Society recommends that adults do not consume more than 30 percent of their daily energy in the form of fat. At 1,500 kilocalories (Kcal) per day that would be around 50 grams (g) of fat per day and at 2,000 Kcal / day around 67 g. As I said, it is important to consume the “good fats” and as little as possible of the “bad” fats, i.e. the saturated fats. And above all: stay away from trans fats!
Let’s talk more about cholesterol, which generally doesn’t have a good reputation. Right?
The current state of science is that an improvement in the so-called lipid profile can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, i.e. those that affect the heart and circulation. It does this by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol. Lowering the so-called triglyceride level also plays an important role here.
How do you get a grip on these mirrors?
The same applies here: It is particularly important to eat mainly “good fats”. Because they lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol level and at the same time increase the “good” HDL cholesterol level.
Which foods can you particularly recommend in this regard?
Olive oil. For example, it contains the valuable so-called monounsaturated fatty acids. In addition, there are also recommended polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids. They are contained in large quantities in rapeseed or linseed oil. The DHA and EPA fatty acids, which are mainly found in high-fat fish, such as salmon or herring, are also healthy. They should be consumed regularly.
When it comes to “good fats”, many people think of nuts …
Nuts have also been shown to prevent heart disease. In spite of the “good fats” they contain, you shouldn’t eat too much here, as nuts are very high in calories. A handful a day is just right, and preferably unsalted, i.e. natural. First and foremost, I can recommend walnuts. Coconuts, on the other hand, should be avoided because they contain a lot of saturated, i.e. rather unhealthy, fatty acids. With regard to the advisable lowering of the triglyceride level, I also recommend not consuming too many carbohydrates, so: little sugar, little juice and little alcohol!
Besides the “good fats”, what else contributes to a balanced diet?
I generally advise my patients to eat a Mediterranean diet: foods containing fiber, such as whole grain products, fresh vegetables and low-sugar fruit, are healthy. Five servings of vegetables / fruits a day are advisable, regardless of whether you have a heart condition or not.
In addition, legumes and nuts. Little meat, but more fish. Season with herbs, little salt, little sugar and little alcohol! As a rule of thumb, I recommend filling half the plate with vegetables. The other half is reserved for protein-containing foods and other side dishes.
And what about the drinking?
When it comes to Germans’ favorite drink, coffee, you shouldn’t overdo it. I can recommend a maximum of three cups a day. To quench your thirst, you should primarily drink water and unsweetened drinks such as herbal tea. It is better not to drink juice pure, but to dilute it with water! I can recommend a mixing ratio of three parts water and one part fruit juice. Avoid soft drinks such as cola, soda, and drinks in general that contain a lot of sugar or sugar substitutes. Alcohol is best only occasionally and in small amounts.
In your experience as a doctor, what else can you do in addition to a healthy diet to prevent heart disease?
Stop smoking! Regular exercise, i.e. at least 150 minutes per week, and with moderate exertion. That is currently the advice of the World Health Organization. “Moderate” means: breathing and heart rate increase slightly without making the body sweat. The goal is achieved when you can still have a good chat with a friend who is jogging at the side, i.e. without panting. Basically, you can say that walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day significantly reduces the risk of heart and vascular diseases. In addition to endurance training, which is highly recommended, it is particularly important in old age to challenge the muscles a little as part of moderate strength training. This specifically prevents muscle wasting.
And basically I can only advise: incorporate more movement into everyday life and sit as little as possible! So: a lot of climbing stairs and a lot of gardening!
I.Your expert for heart healthy nutrition:
Senior Physician Dr. Nagham Soda
Nutritionist and specialist in anesthesiology at the RHÖN-KLINIKUM Campus Bad Neustadt