Hardly a week passes by without an expert issuing a report declaring that a particular food or vitamin, activity or condition will either restore cardiovascular health or ruin it – and often the new advice seems to contradict the old – especially on cholesterol, caffeine, eggs, alcohol, fat etc.
So, the thinking was 'better cut out red meat (beef) and treat yourself to one egg a week (if you must), switch from butter to margarine, take two glasses of red wine daily, avoid the soft drinks and hide the saltshaker'.
Oh, and the doctors say 'don't waste time walking, jogging, or playing golf or tennis in order to keep your weight within limits and just as important, your heart properly toned'.
But the fitness regimen is such a hard time for many busy executives and young professionals who crave daily outdoor dining pleasures to get more out of life than eating mainly starchy carbohydrates.
Curiously, there have been new findings by nutrition scientists and doctors, which point in the direction of moderate eating, drinking and constructive engagement in regular physical exercise as a prescription for good health. Some of the findings are as follows: Eggs: Aren't nearly as bad for the heart as doctors used to think. Sure, they are packed with cholesterol.
But scientists now know that eating cholesterol does not necessarily result in high levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood, where the damage is done. Saturated fat: Found in red meat, butter and other animal products, may be a bigger threat to the heart and blood vessels than cholesterol.
Other fats: Olive oil and other vegetable oils used for baking, mayonnaise, salad dressing and the oil found in salmon (sardines) and tuna fish can drive down bad cholesterol and keep blood flowing freely. Margarine: Can be just as harmful as butter, if not worse, a process that stiffens vegetable oils into butter – like stick also transforms into an artery blocker.
Generally according to experts, the softer the margarine, the better. There are also new butter substitutes in the supermarket such as Benecol, which can cover blood cholesterol. According to Dr. Irvin Rosenberg, Dean of Nutrition Sciences at Tuft University School of Nutrition Science and Policy, "the impression being given is that nutrition science doesn't know what it's doing.
For example, some people's cholesterol levels stayed high, no matter what they ate and a lot of heart-disease patients had normal cholesterol levels. "For one thing, how much cholesterol you eat doesn't necessarily determine how much ends up in your blood.
The body, it turns out, also manufactures its own cholesterol." Precarious situations Unfortunately, in some parts of Africa including Nigeria, the situation is precarious as most families feed mainly on starchy and sugary food, which comprise bread, rice, fufu, plantain, eba, yam, noodles etc.
However, high protein beans and nuts, which also contain starchy carbohydrates, have become the only source of protein as the rising cost of poultry meat, beef and frozen fish stares low-income earners in the face. Experts advise that though 45 percent of daily energy from carbohydrate is highly recommended, the key to better health is to select a balanced range of nutritional foods everyday such as high fibre foods like bread, beans, cereals, proteinous nuts, eggs, beef, fish, chicken and goat meat, and then complement the meals with fruits and vegetables. The dairy foods (milk, yoghurt, cheese etc) are good sources of protein and minerals especially calcium.
Doctors are of the opinion that daily diet should provide all the energy, protein, vitamins and minerals in order to stay healthy and active, thereby enabling you to enjoy life to the full. In his own submission, Dr. Dean Ornish, University of California cardiologist and dean of the eat-right-for-a healthy-heart school of medicine, maintains that changes in diet and lifestyle can treat heart disease as effectively as drugs, and surgery. The American Heart Association recommends 30% of a day's calories for healthy heart.
The following are clear signals to watch out for when it comes to living a healthy life: Body shape: Being overweight is bad enough but if your fat lies more in the abdomen than the hips, you are especially prone to heart disease. Alcohol: It is known as the French paradox; people who live in France eat lots of saturated fat (in the form of butter, cheese and other milk products) yet they have one of the lowest rates of cardiovascular diseases.
One explanation is that the French also drink wine usually in moderation. Too much alcohol can destroy just about every organ in the body, the heart included. But investigations have also discovered through clinical trials that people who take an occasional nip have about a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease than teetolalers.
It is recommended that two to four drinks a week seem optional for men, and one to three for women. Excess alcohol consumption is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, says Dr. Charles Heinekens of Harvard Medical School.