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How to Create A Heart Healthy Diet

Monday 31 August 2020
Cardiovascular Disorders

Table of Contents


I. Understanding Heart Disease

II. Food Journal and Portion Size

III. Limit Nutrient-Poor Foods

IV. Eat Lean Meats

V. Reduce Sodium

VI. Eat These Heart-Healthy Foods


Understanding Heart Disease

Heart or cardiovascular disease can affect every aspect of your life. If the heart structure or blood vessels that circulate blood are damaged or weakened, heart disorders are likely to occur. Over time, these conditions can lead to heart attack, chest pain, stroke, and other dangerous medical events. Genetic factors can cause heart disease, but environmental variables can play a large part as well. Regardless of the cause of your heart disease, it is essential to keep your diet healthy.

A diet is not all you should do to keep your heart healthy, but it can make a huge difference. What you put in your body directly affects your heart's efficiency, so creating a healthy diet and exercise routine can enhance your heart condition. If you have heart disease, you should pair this new routine with medically prescribed heart medications, including captopril, Bystolic (nebivolol), or Coreg (carvedilol). Read on to learn more about tips on how to create your heart-healthy diet plan. [1]

Food Journal and Portion Size

Food journals can help a person keep track of the food they are consuming throughout the day. People may eat mindlessly and not realize what they are putting in their mouths. If you commit to writing down everything you eat, you will become more aware of your eating habits. You can bring the journal to your doctor or a dietician to help you examine areas in which you can improve your diet.

bananas, kiwis, and lettuce on a green background

If you do see a dietician or nutritionist, they will inform you of the correct portion size. You can eat larger portions of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and lower your portion of high-calorie foods like refined sugars and processed foods. Each food has its serving size; for example, a serving of pasta is ? to ½ a cup. For meat, chicken, or fish, a serving is 2 to 3 ounces. You can use measuring cups or scales to help you better understand your portion sizes. You may be confused by serving sizes first, but once you learn the right amount, you will become more comfortable with your judgment. [2]

Limit Nutrient-Poor Foods

Most people can eat fast foods in moderation, but it is smart for those with heart disease to eat as healthily as possible. Many nutrient-poor foods are high in trans-fat and sugar, which can worsen arterial problems and lead to further plaque accumulation. Plaque is a fat-like substance built up in the arteries around the heart, limiting blood flow and circulation. If you are trying to improve your diet, you should avoid the following foods:

Cookies and pastries: The majority of baked goods, especially those made in large factory quantities, are filled with sugar and saturated fats. Butter, palm oil, and hydrogenated vegetable oil do not have any nutritional value and should be eaten in moderation.

Soft drinks: Many people think that diet soda is a better alternative to sugar soda. Diet soda may not have any sugar, but it does not have any health benefits. It may lead people to overcompensate and consume more calories, which can lead to weight gain.

Candy and deep-fried foods: As research continues to progress, fat has been determined as the biggest dietary cause of heart disease. If you consume candy or candy-coated foods, you are at risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity, all of which contribute to heart disease. [3]

Eat Lean Meats

If you are living with heart disease, it is important to consume lean proteins. Some meats contain much more fat than others, like steak and organ meats. Instead of these meats, you can find alternatives like fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can lower blood fats and improve cholesterol. If you do not want to eat meat at all, you can also eat legumes that do not contain any fat or cholesterol. Substituting plant for animal protein can help lower heart complications.

Recommended proteins:

  • Low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese)
  • Cold-water fish (salmon)
  • Lentils, peas, and beans
  • Soybeans and tofu
  • Lean ground meats (chicken and turkey)

a bowl filled with a large piece of tofu

Avoid these proteins:

  • Hot dogs and sausages
  • Fried or breaded meats
  • Organ meats (liver and kidneys)
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Spareribs
  • Fatty and marbled meats
  • Bacon [2]

Reduce Sodium

If you are newly diagnosed with heart disease, your doctor will likely advise you to lower your sodium intake immediately. Sodium is the element found in salt and is linked to water retention and leads to high blood pressure. If you consume lots of sodium and already have high blood pressure, you are at a major risk for heart failure and complications. We often do not think about the salt in our foods, but the numbers are startling. The average Chinese takeout meal can have up to 7,000 milligrams of sodium in one meal. Those at risk for heart problems or heart failure should lower their sodium intake to 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day. [4]

If salt is a large part of your diet, you may have to make some improvements to improve your heart. There are several salt substitutes available, and you should make a habit of reading ingredient labels before consuming foods.

You should avoid high- sodium foods, including:

  • Salted nuts
  • Frozen breaded meats and dinners (burritos and pizza)
  • Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat or fish
  • Canned entrees (ravioli, spam, and chili)
  • Processed cheese

Low-sodium foods:

  • Eggs
  • Low-sodium peanut butter
  • Fresh poultry or fish
  • Low-sodium canned fish
  • Drained, water or oil-packed canned fish or chicken [5] 

Eat These Heart-Healthy Foods

Eating healthy foods is beneficial for everyone living with heart disease. The following foods can maximize your heart health and prevent cardiovascular complications.

Leafy vegetables: Leafy vegetables are a great source of vitamin K, which can protect your arteries and promote blood clotting. Foods like spinach, kale, and collard greens can rescue blood pressure and decrease arterial stiffness.

Berries: Berries have many antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are a satisfying and low-calorie snack alternative. One study showed that 27 adults with metabolic syndrome who ate freeze-dried strawberries for eight weeks had reduced cholesterol levels. [6]

blueberries and raspberries on a plate

Nuts and seeds: Many nuts like walnuts are a great source of fiber and magnesium. Walnuts and almonds can lower high cholesterol and keep you full longer than nutrient-poor snack alternatives. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds can also implement fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy nutrients.

Avocados and tomatoes: Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats that can lower cholesterol and supplement your diet with potassium. Tomatoes are also full of powerful antioxidants that reduce damage and inflammation to the heart and blood vessels, lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. [6]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.