The Heart-Healthy Diet proven to protect your ticker

It’s the month of love when everyone will be going the extra mile to show their affection for that special someone in their lives... But how about showing YOUR HEART some love?

SA’s leading provider of cardiovascular medicine, Pharma Dynamics, is challenging the public to make heart health a priority, starting this February, which also coincides with Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Month.

Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, says the month has been specifically set aside on the national health calendar to highlight the importance of healthy living through nutrition and regular exercise.

“We all know that a healthy, balanced diet is key to a healthier mind and body, yet the message seems to fall on deaf ears.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa, is the unhealthiest population in the world, with those between the ages of 30 and 70 facing a 26% probability of suffering and dying from heart disease, diabetes and other lifestyle disorders.

Jennings also cites a report by Unilever, titled, the Foods Refreshment Report (2020), which revealed that most South Africans eat mainly starch and meat, with very little in the form of vegetables. On average, meat is eaten four times a week, but many eat it almost every day. A diet high in red meat significantly increases the risk of cancer and heart disease. When categorising what is eaten every day into percentages, the national plate consists of 41% starch, 26% meat, 13% vegetables, 9% oils, 8% dairy and 3% legumes.

Snacking on soft drinks and other processed food that often contain sugar and trans fat, is another bad habit South Africans indulge in.

“We have veered far off the recommended nutritional plate, which is shortening the lives of many South Africans,” she warns. “We really are in a nutrition crisis, but there’s still time to turn things around.”

She says we need to view fruit and vegetables, not only as sustenance, but as absolutely essential to our bodies’ need for healthy functioning.

“As a nation we need to be more aware of what we put into our bodies. It can either harm or benefit us.”

Thankfully, there is a growing movement to integrate food and nutrition into healthcare to help prevent and manage diet-related disease.

One such diet, is the “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” (DASH) nutrition plan, which is considered by healthcare providers the world over as the golden standard in maintaining a healthy blood pressure and staving off a host of other debilitating disorders, including heart disease.

It consists mainly of a Mediterranean diet where the intake of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, are encouraged, while processed foods that are higher in sodium (salt) and added sugars are discouraged. Moderate portions of lean meats, such as poultry and fish can be eaten four to five times a week, but red meat should only be enjoyed on occasion.

Jennings says they have simplified the DASH diet for South Africans in the most recently launched Cooking from the Heart 5 cookbook, which is available to the public free of charge.

“The cookbook serves as a valuable resource for people to learn more about the kinds of food to avoid, what to include, and how to prepare tasty meals that are easy to follow and budget-friendly. The DASH diet is not only for those suffering from hypertension, but is a healthy eating plan that everyone should follow to help keep blood pressure in check,” encourages Jennings.

The Cooking from the Heart DASH cookbook not only carries the SA Heart and Stroke Foundation’s seal of approval, but was named among the “Best Free Publications” in the Corporate Brands category in the prestigious Gourmand Awards listing. The overall winner will be announced in March this year.

“Changing your mindset on nutrition can radically transform your health outlook,” says Jennings.

“The way you think about nutrition will influence how successful you’ll be at achieving your health goals. There are no quick fixes. Long-term, sustainable change only comes from making the right food choices every day. The DASH diet shouldn’t be viewed as a temporary eating plan, but a diet to be maintained throughout your life. Slow and steady wins the race. Making small, but consistent changes to your diet will help you reach your goal.”

The Cooking from the Heart DASH cookbook can be downloaded free of charge from