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Heart-healthy eating

Published:Saturday | February 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dr Douglas Street, Contributor

It is no secret that our diet is critical to maintaining the good health of the heart. A good diet can help to keep the arteries smooth and clean and also reduce the risk of clots being formed, which can block the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle - what we call a heart attack.

Choose healthy fats. Using them healthily and limiting cholesterol intake is very important for heart health. Oils are generally better to use than solid fats, and the best oils to use are those that have a significant proportion of monounsaturated fat, for example, olive and canola oils.

It is best to limit or avoid animal-based fats, which are usually high in saturated fats and cholesterol as these contribute to hardening and blocking of the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Trans-fats are also thought to contribute to heart disease as well.


Healthy protein sources are equally important, and again, plant-based sources are healthier. Fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon, anchovies, and, to some extent, tuna, are particularly good as they contain Omega 3 oils, which are thought to be heart healthy.

Plant-based sources include peas, beans, and nuts. They are also rich in healthy oils, fibre, minerals, and vitamins. Red meats, processed meats (like sausages and bacon), preserved meat (like salted fish, beef, and pork), and organ meat (like 'tripe', liver and kidney) are to be limited or avoided. If chicken is being consumed, it is best to remove all visible skin and fat from it and it should be baked or stewed.

Fruits, vegetables important

Fresh fruits and vegetables are definitely a very important part of a heart-healthy diet. The bright-coloured ones are the most important ones as the substances that give them colour are not only attractive, but also function as antioxidants in the body, which limits the damage caused by free radicals.

These protect the arteries, the immune system and joints, among other areas of the body. Fresh fruits and vegetables also provide fibre that limits the absorption of toxins in the body and potassium, which lowers the blood pressure.

As many of your carbohydrate sources as possible should be whole grain (like oats and brown rice and flour). They provide fibre, proteins, minerals, essential oils, and vitamins. They promote weight loss and lower blood pressure and blood sugar.

Dr Douglas Street is a general practitioner and has private practices at Trinity Medical Centre; Trinity Mall; 3 Barnett Street, Montego Bay'and Omega Medical Centre, Plaza de Negril, Negril. Send feedback to