Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dil Toh Pagal Hai -A path to making your heart more healthy!

It's ironic that one of my conversations with a colleague was around the fact that with Aging a number of our conversations are around aches & pains, parents getting sick, us getting sick vs. births, engagements and romance gossips.

It was even more ironic that as my husband, my mother-in-law and me were walking around the lake and rejoicing the fact that my MIL had lost 19 lbs in 8 weeks and no longer had knee issues and could walk comfortably for 1 hr (she is 73), we got a panicked call from my father-in-law had suffered a massive heart attack (Posterior myocardial infarction with anterior infarction in case you were wondering). My MIL is back in India with my FIL and his condition is stable now and he is in the recovery phase. The reality is even though my FIL walks regularly, he doesn't pay much attention to diet ( he is a diabetic) and my MIL is determined to make a change to that. She asked me to send a diet chart for him and I was working on this a couple hours in the evening and hence my thought - why not share the knowledge and information.
Here are some key things to remember while planning your diet for heart -health 

  1. Focus on Portion Control (we have started eating in salad plates vs. dinner plates)
  2. Eat more vegetables and fruits (especially cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranth and methi greens and high fiber fruits like Apple and banana a day is great if you are not a diabetic or on the border line)
  3. Select Whole Grains but limit your whole grain servings to twice a day ( steel cut oats, barley, quinoa and if you absolutely must have rice swap white out for brown)
  4. Limit unhealthy fats (basic thumb rule - say no to red meats, don't eat too much fried food, use ghee in moderation or not at all, we have swapped out whole milk for 2% and limit the amount of dairy, we have more yogurt than milk because it gives us the protein and is probiotic and good for the stomach, we use coconut oil in moderation for cooking - 750 ml lasts  3 people about 6 months in my cooking ( I pressure cook a lot in my Instant Pot) 
  5. Choose low-fat protein sources - Egg Whites, Tofu, Beans & Legumes ( I make a lot of sprouts or beans salads, dals/lentil soups), choose chicken and fish over other fatty meats.
  6. Reduce the sodium in your diet...flavor with lemon, pepper and all the wonderful warm Indian (or non-Indian) spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon etc.
  7. Plan Ahead - make meal plans, diet charts - do your grocery shopping mindfully
  8. Supplement as needed - Fish Oil, Flax Seed Capsules, Garlic Capsules, Red Yeast ( all work for heart health) - what's more important is find out what works for your body!
  9. Have a hurrah - it's OK to get a treat occasionally, you don't have to go cold turkey, treat yourself to foods that you miss once in a while, don't binge on it though
Here's the diet chart I built for my Father-in-Law. Reality is I have kept it easy with a focus on the tenets I have above - lesser carb, more protein and heart healthy foods (flax seeds, green tea, oatmeal, high fiber).

Do ensure that you take a probiotic and give your stomach the time to get used to eating more vegetables and might take a couple weeks. Consult your doctor before starting any diet, I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist. My mother-in-law is a practicing doctor and she stuck to my diet plan and believes that it really helped her in the two months that she was here (but then again, she is my MIL and she might be forced to say nice things ;-) )

Try this delicious Chickpea and Coconut Milk Ishtew (non-fat/light coconut milk) - you can make it in your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. If you are in the mood for some meat try this heart-healthy Haleem recipe (again made in my trusty pressure cooker or Instant Pot).

You heart will thank you!


  1. Good article. What about incorporating good fish diet such as salmon? Since heart problems are tied to Omega3. Omega 3 capsules have elements extracted from salmon.

    1. My father in law is primarily vegetarian - flax seed gives him the Omega boost he needs. Chia seeds are not readily available in India and I wanted to keep his diet plan local vs. exotic. However, if you eat meat - absolutely choose fish over any other meats (and supplementing with fish or krill oil is great if your body can take FIL can't tolerate fish oil supplements)

    2. But a great point and I added that in :)

  2. Only rule in nature is moderation. Ghee is extremely beneficial and the most acceptable fat for the human body. Some amount of fat is needed for proper functioning, like oil in a car. 2% milk while looking healthy from a numbers perspective, is an artificial creation. it is better to use cream top milk without consuming the cream. Same goes for separating egg white from the yellow, there is a reason they are packed together in nature. together they provide balance and assist in digestion. Better to reduce the number of eggs than to separate the white/yellow.
    Supplements also form dependence. Our body is very intelligently created, bodily cravings are one way that nature ensures we get the required nutrients. In our modern living, we have all but destroyed the natural instinct which otherwise keeps us in balance.
    Just my 2c

    1. The reality is there is a fork in the road on the ghee debate...I feed my son some ghee on a regular basis but definitely think that it's not super healthy to eat too much of it on a regular basis for adults. I understand and have researched what has been said about ghee in Ayurvedic principles but the key is moderation (in my FIL's case not at all). Supplements are a boon in this rush world - we are not able to get all nutrients in a meal - especially if we are eating vegetarian and not cooking every single meal. I strongly recommend supplementing to ensure that you get essential vitamins like Vit.D, B12 which are definitely nutrients that we Indians have deficiency problems with!

    2. Moderation is key. Stress is another silent killer, even with the best of diets stress can still continue to cause damage.