At Cardiologist’s Kitchen our priority is to help everyone to look after their heart health through evidence-based dietary interventions. This sounds simple, right? The CardioKit team wants it to be easy, so that more people can benefit from our lifestyle advice. We have put all Dr Ali Khavandi’s tips into the ‘INGREDIENTS FOR A HEALTHY LIFE’ poster, now available to download –
So, what are the ingredients for a healthy life?
NUMBER 1: Weight loss
This sounds obvious, but it’s more specific than just losing weight. People who carry excess weight, particularly around the belly, will find their blood pressure reduces as they lose kilos and their waist size decreases. Belly fat is linked to a range of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.
Read some of our STORIES to see what Cardiologist’s Kitchen followers have to say on this. Many find their new health choices have many benefits, including weight loss and waist loss. The CardioKit innovation is not about fad dieting or restricting your eating – we LOVE food and our recipes and common-sense approach to food options are designed to become part of your daily routine.
NUMBER 2: Eat meals
It may sound alien, but the first rule of eating healthily is to feed your body with a diverse mix of good quality ingredients. We find that most of our patients do not eat regular meals; we encourage everybody to eat three consistently timed and high quality meals a day. The CardioKit team have made this easier for you by providing you with a bank of recipes in COOK
NUMBER 3: Don’t snack between meals
The issue with snacking in the modern day is that it usually involves processed food and is often high in sugar or other refined carbohydrates. Snacking is not a ‘no-no’ for everyone, but unless your job is physically demanding or you do a lot of cardiovascular exercise, you should stick to eating three good quality meals a day with no extras in between. If you find that you really cannot go without a snack and you are not feeling sustained before or after your meals, then choose a piece of whole fruit or a handful of nuts as these are protective to your heart health.
NUMBER 4: Do not count calories
It is a myth that all calories are equal so it makes no sense to count them as such. The calories in a chocolate bar are not as rewarding to your body as the calories in a beetroot, and we’re aiming to look after our hearts. Do not focus on calorie counting and instead follow our ingredients for a healthy lifestyle to eat a diverse and protective diet.
NUMBER 5: Reduce your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake
Asking patients to reduce sugar is unlikely to come as a shock to anybody; it has been all over the news thanks to celebrity chef involvement and government initiatives. However, it’s still a difficult thing to control. We are not just talking about sugar you add yourself but also hidden sugars. Hidden sugars are those that are not always obvious to consumers. For example, products such as fruit juice and squash are high in sugar.
Also, look out for ‘low fat’ products such as fruit yoghurt and dressings; these are notoriously high in sugar because the food manufacturers use sugar to compensate for the fat reduction. Most people will find they achieve immediate improvements in health and weight by cutting down on sugar.
Refined carbohydrates are starch based foods that are either naturally low in fibre or have been processed, which has led to the removal of the fibre content. White flour products (bread), white pasta, potato and white rice are the classics. The problem with these foods is that they are rapidly digested and release sugars.
CardioKit advice is to swap your refined carbohydrates for foods that are rich in fibre such as quinoa, porridge oats, sweet potato, roasted squash and legumes (beans and lentils). Our recipe pages are full of high fibre meal options and ways to apply ‘carb-swaps’, which make this change easier – check out this one.
NUMBER 6: Be careful with alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol is one of the most common contributors to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation. Cutting back on alcohol consumption often leads to immediate weight loss and improvement in risk factors. We suggest that you think of a large glass of wine or pint of beer as a doughnut, to be enjoyed in moderation for your cardiovascular well-being.
NUMBER 7: Eat an array of delicious protective seasonal vegetables and fruit
This is hardly rocket science but it’s not always easy. We have all been told about our 5-a-day; more recent research suggests it should be more like 10 portions a day. This can include one glass of fruit or vegetable juice but should include no more due to sugar levels.
One reason that specific vegetables are so good for you is that they have potential to lower blood pressure and relax your arteries. The more diverse your intake of fruit and veg is, the better. Good examples include: beetroot, rocket and spinach (as these are high in nitrates), green leafy veg and broccoli, mushrooms and parsley (both potassium rich foods), and foods that are rich in soluble fibre like peas, okra and mango.
NUMBER 8: Go for a walk
It doesn’t actually have to be a walk, any form of exercise that raises your heart rate and relaxes your arteries is great and 20-30 minutes can really help you to realise a healthy blood pressure. We recommend walking because it is simple, easy for beginners and free.
NUMBER 9: Don’t fool yourself with low fat
Sometimes called diet foods, low fat foods are usually not healthy. They are normally low quality and highly processed and manufacturers will often use sugar or other unhealthy ingredients to replace the fat. Unsaturated fats from whole foods are all protective and can help you feel full and satisfied in between meals. Good examples include nut and seed oils, oily fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and good quality rapeseed oil.
The CardioKit advice is to have sensible amounts of good quality dairy, eggs, and sources of animal fat in your diet rather than replacing them with sugary foods or refined carbohydrates. Read more about why in our ‘Cooking Cardiologist’ articles – complicated history of fats and butter versus margarine.
NUMBER 10: Avoid artificial sweeteners
These are particularly an issue in products that are usually high in sugar and have been developed to produce a low sugar alternative. Yoghurt is an excellent example. Instead, you should aim to eat diverse foods that are rich in fibre (prebiotics) and good quality whole yoghurt (probiotics) to protect your microbiome. What is becoming increasingly evident, through research, is that there is a link between the bugs in our guts and our health – from mood to heart health and many more things in between. When you eat, you aren’t just feeding yourself but also the billions of microbes in your gut and they benefit from certain foods, such as those recommended by the CardioKit team.