Foods That Help You Increase HDL, The “Good Cholesterol”

Cholesterol is spoken about only when it starts to affect your health negatively. But did you know that there is a type of cholesterol that’s good for you and great for your heart health as well? Just like fats, not all types of cholesterol are bad. The good cholesterol is known as High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and is required for many essential functions in the body and evidence suggests it may also improve your heart health. 

On the other hand, Triglycerides (TG), Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) are known as the bad cholesterol. Choosing the right types of food can help you increase your HDL while also reducing TG, VLDL and LDL. Even for someone who does not typically have any cholesterol related health issues, it is recommended to increase your HDL intake to help improve your heart health. The Indian Heart Association recommends your HDL levels should be in the range of 50-60 mg/dL and mentions every 10-point increase can cut the risk of heart disease by half. 

Here are some foods that you can consume to lower TG, VLDL and LDL levels and improve HDL-to-LDL ratio to manage your cholesterol levels

  1. Whole Grains

Compared to refined grains, whole grains are better for your health as they are richer in fibre and contain many other nutrients. Whole grains like barley (also known as jau), millet (bajra), quinoa, and brown rice are high in soluble dietary fibres and other compounds that help lower LDL levels and increase HDL levels, hence should be incorporated in the diet.  Other than that, one can also switch from white bread and pasta made with refined flour to whole-wheat bread and pasta. 

  1. High-fibre Fruits

You may already know that fibre is good for the digestive system, but did you know that it can also be great for your heart health? Fruits rich in dietary fibres such as bananas, berries, apples, guavas and pears can help you lower your  bad cholesterol which in turn will help reducing the risk of developing Cardiovascular diseases .

  1. Fatty Fish 

There are two types of fish when it comes to fat content – lean fish that are low in fat and fatty fish that have a higher level of fat content. Studies have shown that having fatty fish can help you significantly increase your HDL levels. Fatty fish are also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your heart health and can reduce blood pressure. In India, some of the commonly found fatty fish include Indian oil sardine (mathi), ilish (hilsa), and Indian river shad (suhiya or chaila). 

  1. Nuts

There are many heart-healthy nuts that can make a great addition to your diet. These nuts are not only delicious on their own but can also be added as an ingredient to many dishes. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and increase your HDL levels. Almonds can also increase HDL levels, and can be added to the diet  as almond flour, a more nutritious substitute for refined flour. 



  1. Chia Seeds & Flaxseeds

Chia seeds and Flaxseeds are another source of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids which increases your HDL level and are hence beneficial for cardiovascular health Chia seeds are blander in taste while flaxseeds have a nuttier flavour. Both these seeds come with many health benefits — they can help you lower your blood sugar, they’re great for digestion and can help you feel fuller. You can add them to yoghurt, include them in smoothies or oats, or even add them on top of salads for a nutritional boost. 


  1. Dates

Dates are known for their low glycaemic index. The glycaemic index refers to how fast your body converts carbs in the food to glucose (blood sugar) and two foods with the same amount of carbs can have different glycaemic indexes. The lower the glycaemic index, the less it affects your blood sugar which is why dates don’t cause your blood sugar levels to rise as much as compared to other sugar rich foods.. Clinical studies have shown dates can potentially have a beneficial effect on lipid profile, especially in reducing total cholesterol and elevating HDL, because of its high polyphenolic content. Besides being a great sweet snack, you can also replace sugar in many dishes with dates or even make a paste with dates to use as a healthy, multi-purpose sweetener.   

  1. Oatmeal

While oats don’t increase your HDL cholesterol, they do help you lower your LDL cholesterol,  improving your HDL-to-non-HDL cholesterol ratio. Oats are rich in β-glucan, a fibre known for its cholesterol benefits and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Plus, while preparing oatmeal, you can add many other heart-healthy ingredients — fruits, dates, nuts, and seeds can all be included in your daily breakfast in one bowl of oatmeal. 

In addition to adding these foods to your diet, another great way to increase your HDL is by cooking your meals in heart-healthy oils. Blended edible oils such as Saffola Gold are a healthier alternative to traditional cooking oils that may not have a good balance of SFA:MUFA:PUFA required for good nutrition. Saffola Gold is made with two oils so you can get the nutritional benefits of both in a single edible oil. It helps you increase HDL and lower LDL to ensure overall well-being of your heart health. 

Want to take even better care of your heart? Read about heart-healthy habits you can start today. 





Why Antioxidants are Great for Your Heart Health

We’ve all been down the path where we struggle to eat clean, have a relapse, feel the guilt, and then go back to starting over trying to eat healthier. While this happens to the best of us, it is wise to choose which foods in particular you’re adding to your diet when trying to eat cleaner. Some foods have natural properties that act as “cleansers” for the body, and this in turn can prove very beneficial to improve heart health. One such property or compound, found most commonly in fruits and vegetables, is known as “antioxidants”. 

Here, we lay out a brief introduction to what antioxidants are and highlight some of the health benefits that come with it.


What are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant can be defined as substances occurring naturally or artificially,  present in low concentrations compared to that of an oxidisable substrate and is able to significantly delay or inhibits the oxidation of that substrate. The physiological role of antioxidants is to prevent damage to cellular components arising due to chemical reactions involving free radicals.

A free radical can be defined as any molecular species capable of independent existence that contains an unpaired electron. These are highly reactive and can either donate an electron to or extract an electron from other molecules, therefore behaving as oxidants or reductants, and might cause potential harm to cellular functions. The sources of free radicals in our body are environmental pollutants, UV rays, smoke, stress etc.  

These free radicals can then lead to “oxidative stress”, an excess of which can alter and cause damage to your cells, subsequently creating more serious health problems such as cardiovascular diseases. Oxidative stress is when the number of free radicals are more than the number of antioxidants and the free radicals react with other molecules in the body, leading to cell damage. This is where antioxidants come in. Their benefits are many, the most significant of them being that they counter oxidative stress and reduce the risk of heart diseases. 

What are the Benefits of Antioxidants?

There are several antioxidants benefits that include protecting the body against factors that contribute to cardiovascular diseases. Let’s learn a little more about each of these factors: 

  • Cholesterol and Oxidative Stress: Free radicals can impact cholesterol levels through oxidation and this can result in the formation of what is known as “Cholesterol Oxidation Product” or COPs. COPs are very harmful for the body and can lead to serious, chronic health issues, including that of the heart. Natural antioxidant foods can help inhibit cholesterol oxidation.
  • Diabetes and Oxidative Stress: People with diabetes can experience more complications when combined with oxidative stress that interferes with insulin production. Consuming antioxidant foods can minimise these complications.
  • Premature Ageing of Heart and Oxidative Stress: A consequence of oxidative stress is that it progressively degenerates functions/structure of the tissues and organs, and this becomes a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Antioxidants can combat or slow down generation.

What are the Best Sources of Antioxidants? 

Now, to incorporate these little powerhouses in our diet, here’s a list of antioxidant fruits and vegetables to consider:

  • Antioxidant Fruits: Fruits such as apples, orange, kiwi, blackcurrants, and mangoes contain Vitamin C are rich in antioxidants.
  • Antioxidant Vegetables: Vegetables such as soybeans and tofu that contain isoflavones and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, lentils are great sources of antioxidants.
  • Other Antioxidant Foods: Foods such as nuts (almonds, cashews) and seeds (flax, chia) are rich in Vitamin E, and foods rich in Vitamin A (carrots, sweet potato) also have antioxidant properties. Another easy way to make your diet rich in antioxidants is through the oil you use for cooking. Saffola Gold is a blended cooking oil that contains natural antioxidants to help build immunity. Learn more about Why Blended Cooking Oils are Good For You.

So, if you’re looking for a way to cleanse your body from the inside, antioxidants are the way to go. The health benefits of antioxidants means a happy heart and therefore, a guilt-free and happy life!


Put Your Heart First: Heart Health Tips for Women

Women are multi-taskers who can manage their home, work or whatever hurdle comes their way in life, impeccably. They juggle between keeping the household afloat , caring for their families, working full-time jobs, and selflessly keep their own needs last. They are a mark of strength. To be strong, also means that you need to keep yourself, especially your heart healthy, because it is the whole and soul of your body. The fact of the matter remains that biologically, the hearts of women and men are built differently and hence the impact is also different. 

Women generally have smaller hearts because of the difference in sex hormones, a smaller heart also means they have higher heart rates. Women may also experience more complications related to blood pressure and vascular ageing at an earlier stage as compared to men due to smaller caliber arteries, hormonal changes, and menopause, making them susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. 

For these reasons, it is critical that women look after their heart health through a holistic approach. So today, we share a few heart health tips for women to ensure proactive measures to keep themselves fit and in control of their overall well-being. On the occasion of Women’s Day, it’s time women put their own heart first. These will combine women’s health tips for heart, mind and body — all together.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Women’s blood pressure levels usually tend to increase, especially after menopause due to the decline of estrogen, which is a hormone that plays an important role in the female reproductive system. High blood pressure also known as hypertension, is an increase in the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.  

For this reason, it’s important for women to monitor their blood pressure and seek help if it rises above normal. Blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg is considered normal, however, low blood pressure of less than 90/60 mm Hg can also be a cause of concern, leading to a “hypotensive” state.

Look Out for Symptoms of Heart Issues

While men and women have similar symptoms, a few of them may be less noticeable in women. 

Some symptoms to watch out for that are more common in women are: 

  • Chest pain, even if irregular 
  • Lower chest or upper abdomen pain/pressure 
  • Fainting 
  • Indigestion 
  • Constant fatigue 
  • Nausea/vomiting 
  • Jaw/neck/back pain 
  • Shortness of breath     

Monitor Other Symptoms and Your Diet

An easy but extremely important fix to consider is the food that goes into our bodies. Creating a heart health diet plan can greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and goes a long way in maintaining your health as a whole. 

Mentioned below are some factors that can lead to heart disease and foods that can help prevent them:      

  • Blood Pressure: Leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, and spinach contain nitrates that are helpful in regulating blood pressure. 
  • Cholesterol: Tofu and soy, both contain isoflavones, a type of dietary compound that reduces LDL or “bad” cholesterol, which is known to cause heart disease and strokes. 
  • Diabetes: To minimise sugar intake, switch to healthier alternatives such as dark chocolate that is actually good for the heart owing to flavonoids that lower risk of heart diseases. Fruits, like melons, that are naturally sweet in flavour make a good substitute too.
  • Weight Gain:  An increase in weight is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular complications. Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds are great sources of protein that contain unsaturated fats to help regulate body weight. Additionally increasing fibre from sources like fruit, vegetables and whole grains keeps us satiated for a longer time and helps us manage our weight.

Improve Your Lifestyle 

Small changes can lead to big impact and this reflects most significantly through the lifestyle we lead and the positive changes we make to it to live a healthier, more fulfilling life. 

Below are a few tips for good heart health:

  • Physical Activity: Weight gain, in both pre-menopause or post-menopause stages, can lead to cardiovascular concerns. Women also tend to store more body fat than men. Being physically inactive can result in weight gain and other problems. When you make physical activity a routine part of your life, you automatically reap the benefits of a healthier heart. Activities to consider include going to the gym, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing — all depending on your personal preference.
  • Meditation and Stress Management: Studies indicate that women are more likely to be stressed than men considering the various roles they play, with finances and relationships being some of the main stressors. Meditation is possibly the most relaxing and calming way in which you can benefit your heart health. Meditation can help calm your mind and this in turn produces significant benefits for heart health.
  • Moderate or Quit Alcohol/Smoking: Alcohol consumption and smoking also affect women differently than men because their bodies metabolise alcohol differently and smoking can increase risk of cervical cancer. Both excessive drinking and smoking cause severe damage to your health and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Consider limiting your alcohol consumption and smoking or quit altogether if possible.

There’s no time like today to start your journey towards better health and with these heart health tips, there’s nothing that can stop you from taking on the world. For the ones with the warmest hearts, treat yourself to some extra TLC today and every day!