Eat like a man
Are you a bloke who enjoys a shiraz with your steak? Or nuts with your ale? Or even a pie at the footy? Well good; so do I. And I wouldn’t dare change such ingrained habits, or expect you to.
The key to following a healthy balanced diet is not depriving yourself of your favourite foods. It’s simply a matter of getting the balance right. The principles of healthy eating are not rocket science. It’s a case of including foods from the five food groups and minimising your intake of non-core foods such as alcohol, confectionery, fruit juice and baked goods. There really are no hidden secrets to following a healthy diet. And there’s certainly no need to cut out sugar, fat, dairy, whole grains, the occasional coldie or to revert to liquid diets or South American herbal tonics.
Now, we blokes have special needs. Not to mention particular diseases that afflict us more than women – one being heart disease. More men die from heart disease and stroke than women. According to the National Heart Foundation, 98 Australian men suffer a heart attack every day. From a dietary perspective, a high saturated fat and salt intake, inadequate fibre consumption and drinking too much grog will increase your risk of heart disease. So here’s what you need to know to cut your risk.
There is overwhelming evidence showing that saturated fat is linked to increased cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol (the nasty type). A rise in your LDL cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease as it causes inflammation and a sticky residue (plaque) to form inside your arteries. Saturated fat is typically found in fatty meats and full cream dairy, but it is also found in coconut oil and baked goods (due to the lashings of butter). Opting for low fat dairy, lean cuts of meat and the occasional pastry/cake are ways to actively reduce your cholesterol and decrease your overall fat intake – a present for your waistline too. Also, getting two serves a week of fatty fish such as salmon, herring (minus the salt), mackerel or trevally will boost your omega-3 fatty acid intake – the good type that helps to reduce your heart disease risk.
To refresh your memories from high school science days: wherever salt goes, water will follow. A high salt diet has been shown to increase blood pressure via this mechanism. Reducing salt in your diet will ease the pressure on your blood vessels and reduce the load on the heart to pump blood around. You can slash your salt intake by refraining from adding salt to cooking and at the table; experiment with different herbs and spices to find a flavour combination that works. An example of this is the winning partnership between tomato and basil. Additionally, selecting products with a reduced salt content and opting for fresh over packaged foods will reduce your intake of the salty stuff.
I’m not necessarily preaching abstinence (I, too, enjoy a tipple), but cutting back on your booze will likely improve your heart health. Aim for a maximum of two standard drinks, five nights a week, with at least two alcohol-free days per week. Any further reductions will be a bonus.
Lastly, you’ve heard the saying that fibre is your friend, right? Fibre is the stuff in food that goes largely undigested. It helps to remove the waste from your insides. But more than that, it helps to increase our feeling of fullness, promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in our digestive tracts and also helps to reduce our LDL cholesterol. Boost your intake of wholegrain bread and cereals, oats, vegetables, lentils, chickpeas, beans and nuts to get your whack of this essential ingredient. And don’t forget that Aussie favourite, baked beans – they’re jam-packed full of fibre and other goodies too.
So there you have it. There really are no secrets to healthy eating for your heart and general health. A simple tweak here and there can do wonders for your overall wellbeing. Moderation isn’t a sexy sell, but the proof is in the pudding. Enjoy that tipple, your pie at the footy and salty nuts with your brew – just make it an ‘every now and then’ thing. Your heart will thank you for it.