Food for your heart
Susan Moore, of the Academy of nutrition and diabetics shares how these added nutrients can help your heart:
What is it? Food scientists have created powdered fibre that has no real flavor. It’s added in food items such as hot dog buns, sugary cereals and yogurt. It often comes from different sources than the dietary fibre in oats, whole wheat bread, or bran cereal.
How does fibre help the heart? It’s well known that fibre keeps people regular and can bring down your cholesterol level. Eating enough fibre can also lower your chances of developing heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and obesity.
“Fibre added to bread or cereal can be a good thing,” says Moore. But scientists don’t know whether adding refined fibre to foods will give you the same health benefits as eating fibre naturally found in foods. The best bet is to follow a healthy diet that includes foods that are naturally high in fibre: beans, vegetables, and whole grains, she adds.
How much fibre do you need? Women need about 25 grams daily, while men need about 38 grams a day. Your body needs two kinds of fibre. Soluble fibre, which slows digestion, can be found in beans, nuts, and grains including oats. Insoluble fibre, which helps food pass through the body, and can be found in vegetables and whole grains.
What are they? Omega-3s are a kind of fat found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies. They’re also found, in lower amounts, in nuts.
How do they help your heart? Eating enough omega-3s helps protect your arteries from the sticky plaque that can cause a heart attack or stroke. Omega-3s also protect against a dangerous abnormal heartbeat, and they can lower unhealthy blood fats called triglycerides.
The best heart benefits come from two kinds of omega-3s found mostly in fish: DHA and EPA. Plant foods have a different type of omega-3 called ALA.
How much omega-3 do you need? Health experts advise people to eat fish at least twice a week to get enough omega-3s. There are 2 grams in a 4-ounce serving of salmon. If you have a heart condition, ask your doctor if you need higher amounts of omega-3s.
Moore adds that before you head to the store to buy functional foods, keep in mind that most of the nutrients you need should come from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean meat.
“No one knows whether fortified foods can provide all the health benefits you get from the complex mix of nutrients in whole foods. However, if you think you could use a nutritional boost, ask your doctor which functional foods might be right for you,” she advises.
Written by: Siyanda Nkala