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Five ways to look after your heart
Azmina Govindji RD
10 February 2010
  • Valentine's Day or not, looking after your heart is especially important for South Asians – particularly men – who are more at risk of heart disease than the wider population. However, there are many ways you can protect your heart whilst still enjoying delicious traditional home cooking.

  • Photo: sxc/lusi sxc/lusi

    Whether it's Valentine's Day or not, looking after your heart is especially important for South Asians – particularly men – who are more at risk of heart disease than the wider population. However, there are many ways you can protect your heart whilst still enjoying delicious traditional home cooking.

    The Portfolio Diet, which was designed by researchers at the University of Toronto and published in 2003, combined what was already known about heart healthy diets with additional research. It offers some useful tips:

    1. Have a handful of almonds (badaam) every day.

    It sounds like Ma (grandma) was right when she used to force you to eat your badaam in the morning! There is good research to show that eating 30 grams of almonds (around 20) every day as part of a balanced diet can help to reduce your risk. There is also research on walnuts and peanuts, but remember – only have a handful each day, since they are also high in fat and calories.

    Photo: Nazma Lakhani Nazma Lakhani

    2. Eat 20 grams of soluble fibre every day.

    Soluble fibre is found in foods such as porridge oats / oatmeal, muesli, beans, dhal (lentils) and fruits. Aim to have a couple of servings a day. This could mean eating porridge for breakfast and channa (chickpea) curry for your evening meal. Or try the delicious pea and bean salad recipe as an accompaniment to your lunch.

    3. Include foods which provide soya protein.

    Soya is a low fat vegetable protein which has been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Start with 25 grams and gradually work up to 50 grams per day.

    Try swapping your usual milk for soya milk. Maybe you could start by making this swap only in hot drinks and using it for cereal once you get used to the taste. One pint will give you around 20 grams of soy protein.

    A great snack is roasted soya beans, sometimes called soya nuts. And you could try substituting tofu instead of paneer in stir fries and curries.

    You may not like the taste of soya mince, but perhaps you could try mixing lean minced beef with a little soya mince when you're cooking so that you gradually introduce more soya products into your meals.

    4. Take a plant sterol or stanol drink daily.

    You will find these little drinks in the supermarket, possibly next to the probiotic drinks or milk. Some companies also make yogurts and spreads with plant sterols or stanols.

    You need 2 grams per day (check the label). Studies show that this amount can reduce your blood cholesterol by up to 15 per cent, when eaten regularly as part of a balanced diet.

    Photo: Nazma Lakhani Nazma Lakhani

    5. Take up the usual heart healthy lifestyle advice.

    Be wise with your fats, have at least five fruits and vegetables every day, eat oily fish once or twice a week, use less salt, eat more whole grains and be more active. Most of all, if you smoke – stop!

    Remember, taking on all of these Portfolio Eating Plan tips could help you to reduce your blood cholesterol by up to 25 per cent! Is it worth the effort for you?