The hearty diet
Every year nearly 160,000 people in England and Wales die of heart-related problems, according to the British Heart Foundation. Recently, large-scale research published in the US (jamanetwork.com) looked at the association between dietary factors and mortality from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, known collectively as cardiometabolic disease (CMD). Almost half of the 702,308 deaths were linked with ten ‘sup-optimal’ eating habits.
In the light of that research, I asked nutrition and health expert Dr. Marilyn Glenville for her guidelines on what we should be eating. Interestingly, as she points out in her latest book Natural Solutions for Dementia and Alzheimer’s (Lifestyle Press/£12.77), the guidelines for a healthy diet are virtually the same whether you are eating to avoid CMD, cancer or dementia.
• Aim for less than 5g salt daily. Choose sea or rock salt rather than fine table salt, which contains added chemicals. Use tamari (wheat-free soya sauce) and miso (soya paste) to add a salty taste. Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods, which often contain salt as a preservative.
• Eat a daily handful of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. Opt for a variety, as this provides different nutrients. Organic nut butter is also good.
• Eat six portions of vegetables and salad every day. Prepare them raw or cooked; soups and smoothies are good ways to consume more. Avoid potatoes and parsnips.
• Eat three portions of fruit daily. Choose low glycemic load (GL) fruits, eg, blueberries, cherries and apples. If you opt for higher GL bananas and grapes, eat them with some nuts and/or seeds, as the protein in the nuts will lower the rate that the sugar is absorbed.
• Eat two portions of whole grains every day, such as porridge and brown rice. If grains trigger bloating, brain fog or other tricky symptoms, try different carb sources such as quinoa and buckwheat, which are technically seeds.
• Every week, eat two to three portions of omega-3-rich oily fish – e.g. salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herrings (fresh, not canned, as canning reduces heart-friendly omega-3 levels).
• Reduce omega-6 vegetable oils such as corn and sunflower oils. The healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 oils in our diet is 1:1 or 1:2 but many people are getting 1:25. A blood test can measure your levels; try Omega 3 (Finger Prick) Deficiency Test by Post (£157.60.naturalhealthpractice.com). Prepare food with extra virgin olive oil and organic butter (avoid margarine).
• Cut down on red meat. Boost meat dishes with pulses, eg, lentils. Choose grass-fed meat or poultry – corn-fed increases omega-6 levels in the meat.
• Avoid or reduce processed meats such as bacon, ham, hotdogs, sausages, salami, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat and meat-based sauces, as suspected carcinogenic chemicals can form during meat processing (or cooking at high temperatures), according to the World Health Organization.
• Don't drink beverages sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener, which can increase the risk of obesity and CMD. Drink pure, still water flavoured with lemon, lime, mint or ginger, or sip a fruit juice spritzer with half water and half sparkling apple or grape juice. Generally avoid sugary foods and added sugar.
BAD EATING HABITS TO BAN
High intake of salt.
Low intake of nuts and seeds.
High processed meats.
Low omega-3-rich seafood.
High sugar-sweetened drinks.
Low whole grains.
Low polyunsaturated fats.
High unprocessed red meat.
Some years ago, London-based Ayurvedic practitioner Tomaz Mueller (ayuwave.com) advised me to massage my feet before bedtime with a little oil to calm racing thoughts and help me sleep better. I suggested this recently to a stressed young mum and she emailed me later to say: ‘Oils on my feet have stopped the nightmares!’ I use Aromatherapy Associates Relax Massage & Body Oil/£42 at victoriahealth.com.
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: www.livingstreets.org.uk Walking is free, fun and brilliant for your health and wellbeing. For National Walking Month in May, take part in Living Streets’s #Try20 campaign. It’s simple: just walk for 20 minutes every day of the month – to work, to school, in your lunch hour. Explore your local streets and parks, alone or with friends. Sign up for e-mails to join the walking nation