Myth: You can’t die of a broken heart
Fact: Yes you can, but heart-friendly food shared with loved ones might well be the cure.
A broken heart may well be the stuff of romantic novels and sonnets, however modern medicine is now shining a light on the connection between the wellbeing of the human spirit and the physical health of the heart. While the traditional risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, being too fat and not getting enough exercise are all too familiar, being depressed or socially isolated are now also accepted as significant risk factors for coronary heart disease.
Depression has been described as the most disabling illness in Australia, and the World Health Organization describes it as a leading cause of disability worldwide. Can food help? There are a number of reasons to think that it can. Firstly, there are nutritional factors that can help the function of the brain, and secondly food and eating can be a very positive influence on our well-being.
The primary fuel for the brain is glucose so it’s good to eat regular meals and keep the fuel supply going by eating low GI carbs. Porridge for breakfast, dense grainy bread for lunch and pasta at dinner may well deem these ‘happy meals’. Carbohydrates are well known for their ability to boost serotonin levels and help us feel calm – hands up who gets cranky after too long without food? While the term ‘fat-head’ is a bit sad, the brain is in fact made up almost entirely of fat and the fat you eat is important for being happy. Eating more long chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish may help re-wire the brain for better mood. Interestingly, countries that eat less fish have a higher incidence of depression (and vice-versa).
The term ‘breaking bread’ encompasses the idea that cooking and sharing good food can bring us closer together. While in today’s hectic lifestyle shopping and cooking can be seen as a chore, perhaps we could see them more as affirmations of love and care – for ourselves and others. Perhaps the path to a happiness and enlightenment starts in the kitchen? Maybe we all need to take a little more time for what we think is important, and what could be more important than the food we eat?
So it seems you can eat to beat cholesterol all you like, but if it ain’t heart food shared with those you love, it’s just not as good. To start this kitchen-led happiness revolution, try Veronica Cuckelly's recipes in Heart Food available from www.greatideas.net.au (and whistle while you cook!)
For more information on cholesterol and eating for a healthy (and happy) heart, check out Eat to Beat Cholesterol by Nicole Senior and Veronica Cuskelly: www.eattobeatcholesterol.com.au