I never thought I’d consider my diet!

Following a heart attack you start looking at your life in new light. In my case excessive weight, lack of fitness or smoking could not be attributed to the cause…but one thing that I can change is my diet. Particularly my cholesterol level, which, at 6.6 (post heart attack), is too high for today’s standards. The guideline for UK today is around 3. I was put on statins which reduces this level but it’s time for a diet change as for years I’ve been doing it wrong – very wrong.

Two things I ate almost daily where cheese and chocolate…not together I might add.
I’d have cheese on toast, cheese in sandwiches, cheese on pizza, cheese in dishes.
And, in the evening I’d have a bar of chocolate with a pint. It became regular, and addictive. I’m told cheese can still be eaten, but not the hard variety which tends to have more fat. Basically, if the cheese tastes strong and lovely, like mature cheddar, it’s probably no good. If it tastes bland like Edam it’s better.
And milk chocolate is the one I’d reach for, but plain is the safer choice. I’ve had about two bars of chocolate in three months and miss it badly.

Things I ate weekly: curries, fish and chips, ready meals. I’ve had fish and chips once since and ready meals have been stopped completely.
I love curries…the ones I like are cooked in Ghee (Indian butter). It’s about as fatty as you can get. I enjoy a peshwari naan alongside and pilau rice. In curry terms these are three big bad items. We should be eating dry meals such as Tandori or Shashlik, but I like those runny dishes that soak into the fried rice and go well with the coconut naan.
The naan should be plain and the rice should be boiled. I’ve had two “proper” curries since, and the temptation to go back to what I really enjoy was too great, I can live without the peshwari naan and the pilau rice, but not the flavour rich jalfrezis or dopiazas. Once now and again won’t hurt, he mutters with fingers crossed.

Five a day!
If there’s one thing that’s been well and truly drilled into us it’s the message – five a day. We’ve all heard it, but do we take notice? I didn’t, I do now! So what is five a day? We know it’s fruit and veg but how much? Here are the requirements for an adult:

Something the size of an apple is classed as one portion
A plum or kiwi is half a portion so two would be needed to make a portion
A larger item such as a pineapple would require a thick slice
And a small item such as a grape would need a handful
Dried fruit counts (you need a tablespoon’s worth)
A 150ml glass of fruit juice
A dessert bowl of salad
2 tablespoons of any veg, raw or cooked

Have fruit with breakfast, as a snack and after a meal, include veg with a meal and a glass of juice at some point in the day and you’re sorted.

Something fishy
I regularly ate tinned tuna in sandwiches, and was eating it because I thought I was being healthy. I had no idea why, but thought, it was fish, so it was good. The reason you need fish is for the Omega 3 oils. In tuna it’s unfortunately removed in the canning process, so you need to switch to mackerel or pilchards if canned fish is your thing. Fresh Tuna’s fine.

Milk round
I’ve had semi skimmed milk for years and at least that’s one thing I don’t need to change. I’m told there are some new skimmed milks doing the rounds that have flavour, but that remains to be tested by the Bargh palate.

I also cook using Olive oil which is the best route but reduce the amount of oil you use.

I’ve used spreads as a butter replacement for years too, but there are some that are better than others. Make sure you choose a spread with less than 15g of saturated fat per 100g, and spread thinly.

Are you nuts about nuts?
Research suggests that nuts can reduce your chances of heart attack by up to 35%. This is because they are shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
My favourite nuts are cashews, but the best appear to be Walnuts (they contain Omega 3 fatty acids) and Almonds that are rich in protein, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and phosphorus. Other healthy options include peanuts (not Bombay spiced!), pumpkin seeds and cashews.

As a disclaimer I must state that I’m not a dietician just following advice I’ve been given or read. It’s not conclusive; I’ve just scratched the surface, but it may give you a lead to research further. But be warned you will find lots of conflicting info.

btw my cholesterol level is now 3.5. So something’s worked.

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