In this blog, let us discuss how the vegetarians (and non-vegetarians) can reduce the risk of heart related disease by simple modifications to their diets. All of us understand that the fat we consume as part of our daily food is important for our body to get essential vitamins and minerals delivered. However, excessive consumption of fat gets stored in our bodies and leads to clogging of arteries, which leads to heart diseases. Let’s start with understanding the fats that we consume as part of our daily diet.

 

With so much at stake and with concerns regarding one’s own health, the terms like triglycerides, cholesterol, fatty acids might get too complicated for a common person to understand. To simplify things here the three major types of fats that we usually consume are listed as per Figure 1 that’s shown above.

Saturated Fats: They are bad for our body and hence should be avoided.

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs): Fats which are present in Olive oil, Nuts and Avocados, etc, that are good for our health and ingredients rich in these are also abundant source of minerals, vitamins and other essential micronutrients.

Poly-unsaturated Fats: Fats that are further classified into Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are actually great for our bodies as they lead to the production of two wonderful compounds called EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid).  The Omega 6 fatty acids on the other hand, gives rise to another compound called AA (Arachidonic Acid) which has the adverse effect of inflammation in our cells.

EPA acts an inhibitor of Delta-5-desaturase (D5D), the enzyme that produces the compound AA (arachidonic acid) in our body. The more EPA you have in the diet, the less AA your body produces.

Let us focus on the key components that cause heart related problems in our body as described in Figure 2 below.

With adequate EPA and DHA in our body, we can inhibit the release of AA and also reduce the inflammation of our arteries that lead to a heart condition. So, by simply enhancing the quantity of Omega-3 food sources in our diet we can drastically reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Non-vegetarians can consume fish that are a rich and readily available thus ensuring a healthy source of EPA and DHA in their food choices, but vegetarians can still gain all the health benefits of a Omega-3 rich diet. Luckily, the most abundant source of Omega-3 is plant based diet.  To make it even simpler, it all comes down to one food ingredient, if we take it adequately on a daily basis, it will go a long way in reducing the risk of heart and other diseases in all types of demographic food preferences. Take a guess? It is Flax seed.

Some call it one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s some evidence it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, heart stroke, and diabetes. That’s quite a tall order for a tiny seed that’s been around for centuries.

It’s tempting to think of Flax seed as a super food because of its many potential health benefits. But keep in mind there is no magic food or nutrient that guarantees improved health. What matters is consistently making great dietary choices as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. By using as little as 2 tablespoons of Flax seeds in your daily diet, you can get all the recommended Omega-3 health benefits. You can mix it in your curries, salads, yoghurts, and sprinkle it on almost anything that you eat. Its nutrient value remains stable even when it is cooked and retains its health benefits in whole or powdered form. The key is also to keep the intake of Omega-6 foods to the minimum while we increase the consumption of Mono-unsaturated fatty acids and Omega-3 based food sources.

Eat right, stay healthy!

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