Diet plan for heart disease is important for everyone, including people with or at risk of heart disease. You may be able to lower your risk of heart disease by making healthy food choices. Here are tips on how to choose healthy foods.
How To Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet
What you cannot eat is often fairly detailed when it comes to dieting. The most effective (and empowering) diets, nevertheless, assist you in concentrating on what you can and ought to eat. In fact, research demonstrates that including some foods in your diet is just as crucial as reducing others.
The connection between nutrition and your heart
A healthy heart and good diet go hand in hand. For instance, eating a heart-healthy diet can help lower your blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides as well as your total and bad (or LDL) cholesterol. For example, the mineral potassium, which is present in a variety of fruits and vegetables, can help reduce blood pressure.
More significantly, eating well can help reduce your chance of developing heart disease and other heart-related illnesses. This means that consuming healthier foods can lower or even completely eliminate your risk of later developing certain health problems.
Characteristics of heart disease
Atherosclerosis, a condition that causes the blood vessels supplying the heart to narrow, is what causes heart disease. On the inside of the arterial walls, fatty deposits (or plaque) progressively accumulate, constricting the passageway for blood to the heart. When atherosclerosis first develops, it might be quite advanced by the time you reach middle age.
Plaque accumulation may be steady or unstable. The condition known as angina must be addressed if there is an excessive buildup of stable plaque because it narrows the arteries and causes pain and discomfort since not enough blood is getting to the heart.
Unstable plaque is inflammatory, has a thin top that is prone to cracking, and is inflamed. This allows blood to reach the plaque’s fatty contents. In an effort to close the gap, the blood will clot, but in doing so, it will block the artery. This stops the heart from receiving blood, robs the organ of oxygen, and damages or destroys the heart’s cells. A heart attack has occurred.
Risk factors for heart disease
Your chance of developing heart disease can be impacted by a variety of variables. The good news is that there are many risk factors that you can control, even though some of these cannot be altered. Your risk of heart disease is decreased, for instance, by staying physically active, making sure you have strong social support, and quitting smoking.
Certain risk factors are interrelated. For instance, diet can have an impact on your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes control.
So eating well and keeping a healthy weight are two of the finest things you can do to lower your chance of developing heart disease!
Dietary fats and cholesterol levels
All of the cell membranes in the body contain cholesterol, a lipid that is required for several metabolic processes. It is created in the liver and is made by the body from the food we ingest.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein are blood lipids (fats) that include cholesterol (HDL). While HDL (‘good’) cholesterol helps to eliminate cholesterol from the body and makes it more difficult for plaque to build in the arteries, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol can cause plaque to form in the arteries.
Saturated fats, sometimes referred to as “bad fats,” are known for raising LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels in the blood. Animal products (butter, coconut oil, meat fats like lard and dripping, beef, lamb, chicken skin, and palm oil), as well as processed meals like pastries and biscuits, are common sources of saturated fats.
What to eat and avoid with a heart-healthy diet
According to the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Lifestyle Management Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease (2019), a heart-healthy diet focuses on:
- Whole grains.
- Lean animal protein.
Heart-healthy diets should avoid:
- Trans fats.
- Saturated fats.
- Red meat (beef, pork, veal and lamb).
- Processed meats (hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, bologna).
- Refined carbohydrates (white breads, crackers, salty snack foods, baked goods).
- Sweetened beverages (such as soda).
But moderation is essential. You might find it challenging to totally cut out any of these foods from your diet, so don’t feel bad if you occasionally indulge in a tiny amount of a bad treat. The key is to keep the serving size small.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t eat too much of some healthful meals that are advised. For instance, according to registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, you should consume no more than 6 ounces of fish each week, including species rich in mercury such albacore tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel.
Heart-healthy nutrition tips
Knowing what to eat (and how much to consume) to be healthy can be stressful. Zumpano provides advice on how to create a healthy, heart-friendly diet.
Increase your fruits and vegetables intake
Eat your fruits and vegetables—your folks were right! These offer various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, all of which are proven to aid in the prevention of disease. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and grains is highly advised if you have high blood pressure.
Aim for a total of seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, with around four or more servings of vegetables and two to four portions of fruit, according to Zumpano. Don’t worry if you don’t consume the suggested serving sizes in a day. Just eat a lot of fruits or vegetables the following days because it’s more important how your diet looks overall over the course of a week.
One serving of fruit is equal to:
- 1 medium-sized piece of fresh fruit.
- 1/2 medium banana.
- 1/2 grapefruit.
- 1/4 cup dried fruit.
- 1/2 cup canned fruit (avoid heavy syrup and instead choose fruit water or in own juice).
- 4 ounces 100% fruit juice (avoid sweetened juice).
One serving of vegetables is equal to:
- 2 cups raw leafy salad greens.
- 1 cup of cut-up veggies.
- 1 cup 100% vegetable juice.
How to increase fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Buy pre-cut vegetables and fruit (fresh or frozen), and then bag them up for a snack or to add to a dish.
- Have a vegetable-based soup or garden salad with light dressing with your usual sandwich at lunch.
- Instead of a cookie, enjoy frozen banana slices topped with natural peanut butter and semi-sweet chocolate chips or frozen grapes dipped in 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup.
- Keep fresh fruit on your desk or workspace.
- If you think you’ll be missing a meal, bring a homemade trail mix of your choice of 2 tablespoons dried fruit and 2 tablespoons roasted nuts and/or seeds along with you.
- Make a fruit and veggie smoothie with produce that needs to be eaten quickly.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
Variety when it comes to fruits and vegetables is the key to a healthy lifestyle. You may be sure you’ll consume a variety of nutrients by selecting food that comes in a rainbow of colors. Consume carrots, oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, and raspberries; plums, eggplant, blueberries, and blackberries; in addition to yellow peppers, bananas, and green grapes.
Decrease saturated fats and trans fats
Although we all require fat in our diets, not all fats are created equal. The so-called “bad fats” include trans fats and saturated fats. These cause an increase in LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, the type that promotes the development of artery plaque (that waxy substance). Both red meat and some types of cheese are high in saturated fat.
Consuming healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, is a healthier option. These can be found in fatty fish, flaxseed, soy, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olives.
- Prepare your food with cooking oils such as olive oil or avocado oil, both of which contain healthier fats.
- Eat two to three meatless meals weekly — try split pea soup, garbanzo bean salad, bean-based meatless burgers or tofu stir-fry.
- Eat two skinless poultry meals each week.
- Limit red meat to no more than one meal per week. Choose the leanest cuts of meat possible with skin and visible fat removed. Where possible, replace red meat with seafood or skinless poultry.
- Eat omega-3-rich fish at least two to three times per week This includes cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, trout, sardines and herring.
- Include plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids — like chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds — on a daily basis by adding to meals such as oatmeal, soup, yogurt, smoothies or salads.
Substitute animal protein with plant protein
Beef, hog, lamb, poultry, and eggs, as well as cheeses and yogurt, all contain animal proteins. Despite the 5.5 ounces of protein per day that the American Heart Association advises, the type of protein you consume matters.
Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
Although you may be aware that consuming particular foods can increase your risk of developing heart disease, it can be difficult to change your dietary habits. Here are eight heart-healthy diet suggestions, whether you’ve been eating badly for years or you just want to tweak your diet. You’ll be well on your way to a heart-healthy diet once you know which foods to eat more of and which ones to limit.
1. Control your portion size
Both what you eat and how much of it matter. Consuming more calories than necessary might result from overfilling your plate, going back for seconds, and stopping when you’re full. Restaurant portions are frequently larger than anyone needs.
You may improve the health of your heart and waistline as well as your nutrition by following a few easy recommendations for portion control:
- Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions.
- Eat more low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables
- Eat smaller amounts of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods.
It’s also important to keep track of the number of servings you eat. Some things to keep in mind:
- A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. For example, one serving of pasta is about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck. A serving of meat, fish or chicken is about 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.
- The recommended number of servings per food group may vary depending on the specific diet or guidelines you’re following.
- Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you’re comfortable with your judgment.
2. Eat more vegetables and fruits
Fruits and vegetables are excellent providers of vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are high in dietary fiber and low in calories. Like other plants or plant-based diets, fruits and vegetables contain compounds that may lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. You may be able to reduce your intake of high-calorie meals like meat, cheese, and snack foods by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.
It can be simple to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. Maintain sliced and washed vegetables in your refrigerator for quick snacking. To ensure that you remember to consume it, keep fruit in a dish in your kitchen. Pick recipes using fruits or vegetables as the major ingredients, like fruit salads or stir-fries with veggies.
|Fruits and vegetables to choose||Fruits and vegetables to limit|
|Fresh or frozen vegetables and fruitsLow-sodium canned vegetablesCanned fruit packed in juice or water||CoconutVegetables with creamy saucesFried or breaded vegetablesCanned fruit packed in heavy syrupFrozen fruit with sugar added|
3. Select whole grains
Fiber and other nutrients included in whole grains help to control blood pressure and maintain heart health. By adopting straightforward substitutes for refined grain products, you may boost the proportion of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet. Alternately, be daring and experiment with a novel whole grain, such farro, quinoa, or barley.
|Grain products to choose||Grain products to limit or avoid|
|Whole-wheat flourWhole-grain bread, preferably 100% whole-wheat bread or 100% whole-grain breadHigh-fiber cereal with 5 g or more fiber in a servingWhole grains such as brown rice, barley and buckwheat (kasha)Whole-grain pastaOatmeal (steel-cut or regular)||White, refined flourWhite breadMuffinsFrozen wafflesCornbreadDoughnutsBiscuitsQuick breadsCakesPiesEgg noodlesButtered popcornHigh-fat snack crackers|
4. Limit unhealthy fats
To lower your blood cholesterol and lessen your risk of coronary artery disease, you should limit the amount of saturated and trans fats you consume. Atherosclerosis, or the formation of plaque in the arteries as a result of elevated blood cholesterol, can raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.
For a heart-healthy diet, the American Heart Association recommends the following amounts of fat to include:
|Type of fat||Recommendation|
|Saturated fat||Less than 6% of total daily calories.* If you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 11 to 13 grams.|
*Note: The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of total daily calories.
There are simple ways to cut back on saturated and trans fats:
- Trim fat off meat or choose lean meats with less than 10% fat.
- Use less butter, margarine and shortening when cooking and serving.
- Use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. For example, top a baked potato with low-sodium salsa or low-fat yogurt rather than butter, or use sliced whole fruit or low-sugar fruit spread on toast instead of margarine.
Cookies, cakes, frostings, crackers, and chips should all have food labels checked. In addition to having little nutritional value, several of these foods—even those with reduced fat labels—may also include trans fats. Although trans fats cannot be added to food anymore, some older items may still contain them. On the ingredient label, trans fats could be identified as partly hydrogenated oil.
|Fats to choose||Fats to limit|
|Olive oilCanola oilVegetable and nut oilsMargarine, trans fat freeCholesterol-lowering margarine, such as Benecol, Promise Activ or Smart BalanceNuts, seedsAvocados||ButterLardBacon fatGravyCream sauceNondairy creamersHydrogenated margarine and shorteningCocoa butter, found in chocolateCoconut, palm, cottonseed and palm kernel oils|
When you do consume fats, choose for monounsaturated sources like canola or olive oil. A diet rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in some fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds, is also recommended for heart health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help decrease your total blood cholesterol when utilized in place of saturated fat. Moderation is necessary, though. All forms of fat include a lot of calories.
Utilizing ground flaxseed is a simple approach to increase your diet’s beneficial fat (and fiber) content. Small brown seeds called flaxseeds are rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. According to studies, flaxseed helps some people with their harmful cholesterol levels. A teaspoon of ground flaxseeds can be added to yogurt, applesauce, or hot cereal. Flaxseeds can be ground in a coffee grinder or food processor.
5. Choose low-fat protein sources
Some of the greatest sources of protein include eggs, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, poultry, and fish. Choose lower-fat options like skim milk instead of whole milk and skinless chicken breasts instead of fried chicken patties.
A healthy substitute for high-fat meats is fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in some fish varieties, can reduce blood fats called triglycerides. Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil are further sources.
Beans, peas, and lentils are legumes that make excellent meat alternatives since they are low-fat, cholesterol-free sources of protein. If you replace animal protein with plant protein, such as a soy or bean burger for a hamburger, you’ll consume less fat and cholesterol and more fiber.
|Proteins to choose||Proteins to limit or avoid|
|Low-fat dairy products, such as skim or low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt and cheeseEggsFish, especially fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmonSkinless poultryLegumesSoybeans and soy products, such as soy burgers and tofuLean ground meats||Full-fat milk and other dairy productsOrgan meats, such as liverFatty and marbled meatsSpareribsHot dogs and sausagesBaconFried or breaded meats|
6. Limit or reduce salt (sodium)
Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Limiting salt (sodium) is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends that:
- Healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt)
- Most adults ideally have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day
Even though cutting back on the salt you use when cooking or adding it to food at the table is a smart starting step, a lot of the salt you consume comes from canned or processed foods like soups, baked goods, and frozen dinners. You can consume less salt by eating fresh foods and cooking your own soups and stews.
If you enjoy the convenience of prepared meals and canned soups, seek for ones with no or low sodium. Sea salt has the same nutritional value as ordinary salt, so be skeptical of goods that claim to be reduced in sodium because they are seasoned with it rather than regular table salt.
Making wise condiment selections is another method to cut back on your use of salt. There are many condiments with lower sodium content. With less sodium, salt replacements can taste your cuisine.
|Low-salt items to choose||High-salt items to limit or avoid|
|Herbs and spicesSalt-free seasoning blendsCanned soups or prepared meals with no added salt or reduced saltReduced-salt versions of condiments, such as reduced-salt soy sauce and reduced-salt ketchup||Table saltCanned soups and prepared foods, such as frozen dinnersTomato juiceCondiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise and soy sauceRestaurant meals|
7. Plan ahead: Create daily menus
Use the six tactics from the above list to create daily menus. Put an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and healthy grains when choosing foods for each meal and snack. Limit your intake of salty foods and go for lean protein sources and healthy fats. Keep an eye on your portion sizes and diversify your menu options.
For instance, the following night, if you had grilled salmon the night before, try a black bean burger. This makes it more likely that you’ll consume all the nutrients your body requires. Meals and snacks are more entertaining when they are varied.
8. Allow yourself an occasional treat
Allow yourself to occasionally treat yourself. Your heart-healthy diet won’t be ruined by a candy bar or a bag of chips. But don’t let it become a justification for abandoning your diet. Over time, you’ll achieve equilibrium if overindulgence is the exception rather than the rule. The majority of the time, eating healthy foods is what matters.
If you follow these eight suggestions, you’ll discover that eating heart-healthily is both achievable and fun. You may prepare meals with your heart in mind by using a few straightforward adjustments.