Nutrition coaching: how to eat to protect your heart?
7 mins read

Nutrition coaching: how to eat to protect your heart?

We don’t know enough, but cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death among women, who often minimize their symptoms, prioritizing family or work. Diet is a key factor in preventing these diseases. And certain foods are real balms for our hearts.

Western food is not the Holy Grail

“It was a shock for me, a real wake-up call. » During our first consultation, Pietra, 58, told me that she had a stroke six months ago, in other words a cerebrovascular accident. A small clot suddenly cut off blood flow inside his brain. Result, paralysis of the upper right part of his body for a few weeks. Luckily, six months later, Pietra had no after-effects. “I feel so lucky, I tell myself that I really need to prevent this from happening again. » Pietra’s cardiologist had already alerted her to certain risk factors: hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking and being overweight. “I listened with one ear,” admits Pietra, who has not changed much in his lifestyle but agreed to take medication for high blood pressure. “I have managed to stop taking medication for three months. smoking, now I want to take care of my diet,” she told me.

Pietra runs a decoration shop and often skips lunch, “or it’s a sandwich, pizza, or even poke bowl with a small dessert.” She lives alone, and in the evening, she happily makes herself cheese toast, cold meats or a good pasta dish, possibly accompanied by a soup or a green salad.
For breakfast, she likes bread with butter or industrial biscuits.
Overall, Pietra’s diet is quite typical of the Western diet: rich in fats, particularly saturated fats (present in butter, cream, cheese, cold meats, red meat, etc.), the excess of which is unfavorable for cardiovascular health. In refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, etc.) and salt (bread, cheese, cold meats, etc.). Pietra, however, eats few highly processed products (good point) and reasonably sweet products.

The virtues of the Mediterranean diet

I ask her if she likes fruits and vegetables. “Yes, I love them, but I don’t take the time to buy them and cook them. I am originally from Corsica, last summer I spent three weeks in Cape Town and I enjoyed peaches, apricots, eggplants and tomatoes,” she explains to me. Bingo. Pietra offers me a perfect opportunity to talk to him about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. There are countless scientific studies praising its cardioprotective virtues. The principles of this diet are simple and allow you to compose delicious recipes. At the heart of the plate, fruits and vegetables, which can be consumed generously for their supply of protective nutrients, in particular fiber, antioxidants and certain minerals. The first will help reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and therefore protect against the risk of having atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries. They also help to smooth blood sugar levels and have a good microbiota. Antioxidants, for example beta-carotene from carrots, polyphenols from strawberries, fight against oxidative stress which damages our arteries. Certain minerals, and more particularly the potassium in certain fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, bananas, etc.) help reduce the risk of hypertension.

Other pillars of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil and its heart-protecting fatty acids, particularly favorable to a good balance of cholesterol and rich in antioxidant vitamin E. But also dried vegetables (chickpeas, lentils, beans, etc.), oilseeds (almonds, hazelnuts, etc.) and seeds (flax, chia, squash, etc.) rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

The Mediterranean diet is not strictly vegetarian, but the consumption of meat and fish is moderate, focusing mainly on white meats, less rich in saturated fatty acids. As for fish, I recommend to my patient to consume twice a week those that are rich in omega 3, which help to better dilate the vessels, reduce triglyceride levels and have recognized anti-inflammatory functions. Chronic inflammation accompanies cardiovascular patients, it is therefore important to favor an inflammatory diet.

The most protective foods

“It’s a diet that suits me on paper, I like all of it, but the problem is the organization,” my patient told me. Faithful to my method, I suggest he take it step by step. And to make life easier.
Over the course of the consultations, Pietra chose a new small step to, after a few weeks, succeed in composing plates rich in protective foods.

  • First small step: fill the freezer with frozen vegetables and go to the greengrocer twice a week to pick up at least some fruit. A high consumption of fruits and vegetables of all kinds, and more particularly red fruits, is associated with good cardiovascular health in all scientific studies.
  • Second small step: have canned sardines or mackerel in your cupboards: all you have to do is open them, eat them with wholemeal pasta and vegetables for a quick and perfect complete dinner.
  • Third small step: swap butter and cream for olive oil as often as possible and replace all or part of the salt with spices and herbs.
  • 4th small steps: explore recipes based on dried vegetables (she downloaded my ebook of anti-inflammatory recipes) to replace pasta at least half the time and opt for whole grains
  • 5th small step: start putting together Mediterranean-inspired lunch boxes. And eat at least walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts at lunchtime, when it is impossible for Pietra to take a real lunch break.
    Pietra is gradually acclimating to these new habits and his heart says thank you.

“The gentle method for eating better”, Sophie Janvier (ed. Leduc)

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