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Dr Michael Mosley and Professor Tim Spectors top tips to boost heart health

Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk in 2021

Heart and circulatory diseases are considered major killers, claiming more than 160,000 lives each year.

Your diet could be a double-edged sword here – it could lay the groundwork for heart disease but it could also reduce your risk of the deadly culprit.

Dr Michael Mosley has joined forces with Professor Tim Spector to discuss what is the biggest offender as well as the best food when it comes to heart health.

Speaking on his podcast Just One Thing, Dr Mosley said: “One thing is clear – if you want to benefit your heart health, your gut microbiome and your brain, then put aside the ultra-processed food and pick up a plant.”

These two tweaks are also Tim Spector’s “top tips” for a better diet and good health.

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Processed foods

While processed foods can help bridge the gap between comfort eating and the lack of time, they spell bad news for your overall health.

Spector said: “In the UK, we have the highest intake of ultra-processed foods in Europe and it’s not a coincidence that we also have the highest rates of childhood obesity, adult obesity and diabetes.

“At an individual level, I think it’s also important to realise that it’s not the fat, the sugar, the salt that we thought it was – it’s the processing. 

“It’s the fact that these are fake foods. They don’t contain natural ingredients.”

Worryingly, ultra-processed foods don’t only increase your risk of heart disease but they also put your blood sugar, blood pressure and brain at risk.

Furthermore, the chemicals hidden behind strange names in the lengthy ingredient lists can increase your appetite and make you feel bad afterwards.

Spector added: “Eating identical meals – one home cooked, the other processed – you will eat an extra 500 calories a day of the ultra-processed food and it will make you feel rotten. 

“And you don’t know why.”

If you want to ditch these foods or cut back, the first step is to identify these culprits.

The professor recommended looking at the back of labels when you go grocery shopping.

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When you spot ingredients you wouldn’t use in your kitchen – think gums, modifiers, artificial sweeteners, colourings – you’re looking at ultra-processed food.

While what you exclude from your diet plays an important role, what you eat is key.

30 plants a week

Spector’s “just one thing” that he recommended to everyone is eating 30 plants a week. 

“If you can eat 30 plants a week, pretty much you solve 90 percent of your problems,” the professor said.

While this might seem daunting and repetitive, Spector explained that plants include a whole variety of foods. “It’s not 30 portions of kale, it’s 30 different plants.”

He said: “A plant is not only a fruit or vegetable, it’s also a nut, it’s also a seed, it’s also an herb or a spice mix.

“And I actually count coffee as a plant because it is a bean that’s been fermented.”

From beans to nuts and spices to seeds, getting 30 plants into your diet is much “easier” than it seems.

The professor suggested you could start your day with a mix of nuts and seeds stirred into your yoghurt or you could add a teaspoon of a spice mix to your dish when you prepare your dinner.

All of these small tweaks could help you reach the 30 plant goal and subsequently boost your heart health.

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