By Dr Somi Igbene

Choosing foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals and that are also low in sodium, added sugar and saturated fat helps to achieve and maintain healthy body weight, decrease the risk of heart disease and improve overall health. These five tips can kickstart your journey to a healthier heart.



1 Eat more Vegetables

Eat a range of vegetables including carrots, green beans, green peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkin as part of meals and snacks. Add dark green leafy vegetables like green, ugwu, spinach, to eggs for breakfast. Use green pepper or celery with hummus for a snack, and eat a fresh salad and cooked vegetable with dinner.

2 Eat more Fruits

Include fruits such as oranges, papaya, pineapple, mango, grapefruit, watermelon, pears, apples and tangerines for snacks and meals. Always choose fresh or frozen fruit, canned varieties are okay if they contain no added sugar.

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You can try slicing fresh fruit on your bowl of oatmeal, blend into yoghurt for a smoothie or blend with other green vegetables for a green smoothie. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter for easy snacking, and end meals with fruit instead of a high-fat or sugary dessert.

3 Choose fat wisely

Reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume especially palm oil and coconut oil. Choose seafood and lean cuts of meat and poultry. Grill, steam or bake your food instead of deep frying and limit your intake of cheese and fast food that are usually high in fat.

4 Reduce the amount of sugar you consume

Limit added sugar by replacing foods like cookies, cakes and sweets with nutrient-dense, nourishing alternatives like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or popcorn with a sprinkle of chilli powder or cinnamon for flavour. Instead of sweetening oatmeal with sugar, top with fresh fruit or a homemade fruit compote.

5 Prioritise whole grains

Enjoy a whole grain breakfast like unflavoured oatmeal, All bran, Muesli or Shredded Wheat. Make sandwiches with whole grain bread, serve brown rice or ofada rice instead of white rice or choose other whole grains like millet, acha, or quinoa with dinner. Increase the quantity of legumes (beans and lentils) in your diet.

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In addition to healthy food choices, incorporate at least 150 minutes of physical activity into your weekly routine. That only works out at 2—30 minutes most days of the week. Always choose activities that you enjoy doing so that you remain consistent. Consistency is vital when it comes to health!


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