Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, are the world’s number one killers, claiming 17.5 million lives a year globally.

According to the National Institute of Nutrition India, our diet should consist of 15-30 percent fats.

One must remember that not all oils are suitable for high-temperature Indian cooking. Using oils such as olive oil (especially extra-virgin) are not recommended for deep frying food items such as samosas and pakodas. The reason for this is that on over-heating these oils lose their nutritional qualities and produce harmful by-products. Alternatively when used in salads as a dressing, the oil does wonders in helping protect the heart. Similarly, sunflower, coconut, mustard oil all have a good heat endurance and can be used for deep-frying. So the choice of oil must be customized for the food you are looking at cooking.

Different oils are suitable for different cooking conditions and people for instance: Sunflower oil though a good source of monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids is not recommended for diabetic patients since it may increase sugar levels. Canola, avocado, and almond oil are considered good for the heart because they contain healthy fats. However, combining different oils in one’s diet is ideal

A large section of people are unaware of is that most oils are not meant to be used for cooking at high temperatures. Over-heating oil causes oxidation that leads to the formation of carcinogens, an unhealthy compound. It also demolishes the good nutritional qualities of the oil. The best way to avoid this is to watch the color of the oil. The change in the color of the oil is a crucial sign that indicates that it has started to degrade due to the heat.

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For instance, extra virgin olive oil is not suitable for deep frying or cooking any food product. It should solely be used for dressing or making dips. Most are unaware about this fact and continue to use oils that seem healthier for normal high heat Indian cooking thereby causing more harm than good.

Another mistake that people often make is that they try and eliminate fats completely from their diet. An ideal diet should consist of 15-30 percent fats, and edible oils are one of the major contributors of dietary fats. Instead of eliminating oil completely from one’s diet, smart oil choices must be made.

In addition to this, people must get out of the habit of reusing cooking oil. Reusing oil can create free radicals, which cause ailments in the long run. These free radicals can be carcinogenic i.e. can cause cancer and also atherosclerosis that can lead to an increase in bad cholesterol levels, blocking the arteries. If one must re-use oil, then they must make sure the leftover oil from cooking or frying is cooled down and then transferred into an airtight container through a strainer/cheesecloth. This will remove any food particles in the oil as they spoil the oil much sooner than expected. In addition to this, the color and thickness of the oil must be checked. If the oil is dark in color and is greasy/sticky than it must not be re-used.

People must also be aware that oil can get spoilt. If upon heating the oil is smokey much before than expected, the time has come to discard it it may have accumulated HNE which is a toxic substance that has been associated with a number of diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke, liver disease, etc.

A sample of a healthy diet to protect the heart?

Consuming certain foods can double your heart disease risks, and it is often tough to change one’s eating habits. It is important to control your portion size, a small plate or bowl can help control the portions one consumes. Consuming larger portions of low-calorie and nutrient-rich foods like, fruits and vegetables and reducing the quantity of food items which are high in trans fat, sodium and sugar content can go a long way in protecting the heart.

One must understand the difference between good fat and bad fat to minimize the risks of heart disease. A few heart friendly diet practices include:

  • Eating more fruits and vegetables as they are low in calories and rich in dietary fibers
  • Reducing the consumption of red meat is important for heart patients
  • Opting for a sodium and sweet controlled diet since diabetes and hypertension both lead to coronary heart disease
  • Low calorie and high nutrient food must be consumed to keep obesity under check. Obesity is again a major influencer in early incidence of heart disease
  • People must limit the consumption of pre-packaged and canned food as they contain high levels of trans fats and salt content
  • Whole grain products are regarded as a great source of fiber that plays a major role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. One can easily increase the amount of whole grains in their diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products.
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