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Category Archives: Heart disease

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research

Processed meats increase the risk of heart disease

A review by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that people who eat one serving (50g) daily of processed meat such as bacon, ham, sausages or salami have a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Unprocessed red meats, such as beef, lamb or pork, do not increase the risk.  

The review was published in the journal Circulation and examined 20 studies published worldwide, involving over a million people. It is already known that processed meats are linked to an increased chance of developing bowel cancer, but this new research shows that as little as two rashers a day also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Weight management

‘Healthy’ snacks are loaded with sugar.

The Times reported last week that supermarket snacks that are marketed as healthy may contain up to 69% sugar; more than three times the amount found in chocolate ice cream. It is common for low fat options to have more sugar than conventional products as manufacturers attempt to make these products more palatable.

Most processed foods contain some added sugar – baked beans, chilli, vegetables, sauces for pasta or curries and ready meals all contain significant amounts of sugar. Many breakfast cereals and cereal bars are also high in sugar, especially those that are being promoted for people who are trying to lose weight; Tesco Healthy living forest fruit and raisin bars contain 50% sugar and Kellogg’s Special K Fruits of the Forest bars are 39% sugar.

Snacks marketed for children are often high in sugar. Kellogg’s Fruit Winders Doubles contain 37% sugar and Fruit bowl apple and strawberry fruit flakes contain 69% sugar; that’s five times the amount of sugar found in fresh fruit, but with significantly diminished levels of vitamins, minerals, water and enzymes that are all important for good health. With more than 13.8g in a packet, a child has nearly 3 teaspoons of sugar from a bag of fruit flakes alone. Adding a carton of fruit juice and a yogurt (both healthy choices) could push the sugar content up to 45g – that’s 9 teaspoons. 

The food industry has been competing to sell low fat snacks in order to reduce obesity and heart disease. To increase their palatability, sugar has been added, but it is now known that people who eat more sugar are more likely to have lower levels of good cholesterol and higher levels of some blood fats, which are risk factors for heart disease.

It is important to keep sugar levels down to protect teeth, to reduce unwanted calories and also to prevent the mood swings and lethargy associated with imbalanced blood sugar. Refined sugar does not need digesting, so provides an instant blood sugar boost, but this is always followed by a crash as the body tries to rectify high blood sugar by producing insulin. In the long term, these patterns can lead to diabetes, hormonal imbalance and obesity, as extra energy is converted to fat in the body.

Fresh vegetables or fruit make the ideal alternative to shop bought sugary snacks. Cut up into crudités, vegetables can be dipped into hummus or used to scoop up cottage cheese or home-made mackerel pâté. Fruit can be transported easily, needing only a wash or to be peeled. For children, a new studycarried out in Europe shows that fruit is more likely to be eaten when it is attractively presented in a  fun shape such as a hedgehog. Many cereal bars, such as the Food Doctor bars contain no added sugar and are ideal for a more substantial snack, or oatcakes are delicious with nut or seed butter.

To make a mango hedgehog, slice down each side of a mango from top to bottom, close to the stone, so you have two ‘almost halves’ with a middle slice clinging to the stone (you may find that the children fight over who gets this bit!). Cut across the flesh of each mango half in parallel lines, carefully so as not to cut through the skin. Now cut across these lines in the same way, so you have criss-crossed flesh with the skin intact. Turn the skin in on itself so you have a mound of spikes to decorate with raisins for eyes and a nose.

 To make an orange dragon, lay an orange on a board with the stalk and base facing to the sides. Using a sharp knife, cut the orange asross the segments into generous rounds. Then, take a slice and at a point between two segments, carefully cut through the skin and as far as the centre of the slice. Carefully prise open the slice, seperating the little triangular segments: you end up with a flat line of orange skin with a series of little triangles poking out from it – the dragon fins. Repeat with the other slices. This is much easier to do than to describe in words – so give it a go and you’ll find your children will be keener to eat the oranges than if they’d had to peel them in the usual way.

To make grapes more appealing, slide onto skewars and freeze for an alternative to an ice lolly.

These ideas are taken from ‘Wonderfoods for kids’ by Natalie Savona

To make mackerel pâté, whizz up 4oz/100g smoked mackerel fillet with the same amount of cottage cheese in a blender.  Add 2 chopped spring onions, parsley and lemon juice to taste. Eat with rye bread, rice crackers, oat cakes or crudités.

Categories Heart disease, In the news, Latest Research

B vitamins may prevent heart disease and stroke

Research published this month in the journal Stroke has found that people who eat a diet high in B vitamins are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. A study in Japan analysed dietary questionnaires completed by more than 23,000 men and women. During an average 14 years of follow-up, 986 of the respondents died from stroke, 424 died from heart disease and 2,087 died from cardiovascular related disease.

The study found that  women who ate more foods with the B vitamins folate and B6 were less likely to die from stroke or heart disease and men who ate more of these vitamins were less likely to die of heart failure.

The researchers suggest that folate and vitamin B6 may help to protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood. This amino acid is produced in the body as a by-product of other chemical reactions; high levels can cause damage to the body. With adequate B vitamins, homocysteine can be converted into useful antioxidants, but without the B vitamins, homocysteine levels will rise. In addition to cardiovascular disease and stroke, high homocysteine levels are associated with cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Homocysteine levels can be checked at home. To order a test to find out what your levels are Click Here.

The researcher Dr Hiroyasu Iso suggests that people should increase their intake of vitamin B6 and folate.  To achieve this, enjoy more spinach, watercress, wheatgerm, bananas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, brown rice, avocado, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, nuts and seeds.

Why not try this recipe from Antony Worral Thompson?

Cauliflower, spinach and chickpea balti

Ingredients

For the balti sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2cm/¾in piece ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, crushed
3 onions, chopped
250ml/8¾fl oz water
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garam masala
2 bay leaves
4 cardamoms, broken slightly open
1½ tsp salt
For the vegetables
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2cm/¾in piece ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomatoes, chopped
200g/7¼oz cauliflower florets
250g/8¾oz tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp salt
250g/8¾oz baby spinach leaves
2-3 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp garam masala
 

To serve
brown rice

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan then add the ginger and garlic and stir.
2. Add the onions and stir-fry for five minutes until they are translucent.
3. Add the water and bring to the boil.
4. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, cover and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaves and cardamom pods, and liquidise the rest in a blender.
6. Heat the oil in a large wok then add the onions and fry gently until they begin to turn brown.
7. Add the ginger and garlic, stir well, and cook for one minute.
8. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower, chickpeas, salt and enough balti sauce to coat all the vegetables (4-6 ladles of sauce).
9. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the cauliflower is just tender.
10. Add the green chillies and spinach and stir-fry for three more minutes until the spinach has wilted down.
11. Stir in the coriander.
12. Just before serving, sprinkle the garam masala on top.
13. Serve with brown rice, naan bread or chapatis.