If you are worried about heart disease, there are lots of positive steps you can take to improve your diet, improve the health of your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Try to eliminate as many sources of unhealthy fats from your diet as you can. These are the saturates, found in fatty meat products such as salami and pork pies and full fat dairy products, such as cream and butter, and the trans fats found in many processed foods made using hydrogenated fats.
√ Reduce your saturates intake by removing visible fat from meat (such as bacon rind), choosing lean cuts of meat (such as 5% fat minced beef) and switching to lower fat dairy products like semi-skimmed milk, low fat yoghurts and low or half fat cheeses.
√ Swap butter for a lower fat, healthy spread (and check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any hydrogenated or trans fats). Or if you prefer butter, use it sparingly.
X Eat too many cakes, biscuits, pastries, savoury snacks, fried food and fast food, when possible check labels to make sure the product does not contain any hydrogenated fats.
Some fats are good for heart health so try to include more of these into your diet.
√ Include the monounsaturates found in olive oil rapeseed oil, nuts and seeds and their oils. Use these oils, or spreads made from these oils, in cooking and baking.
√ Add nuts and seeds to stir-frys, salads and breakfast cereals or have a small handful as a tasty snack between meals.
√ Eat more oily fish. Oily fish contains a type of fat good for your heart called long chain omega 3 fats. Choose from mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, sardines, pilchards and fresh tuna (canned tuna doesn’t count).
X Eat too much; men and older women should eat between one and four portions of oily fish per week, women of child-bearing age should limit their intake to no more than two portions a week.
Fruit and vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables is especially important for people with heart disease as they provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that protect the heart from damage caused by chemicals and pollutants.
Try these ideas to boost your intake:
√ Throw a handful of dried fruit on your breakfast cereal
√ Have a bowl of chopped fruit with you at work to nibble on through the day.
√ Drink a fruit smoothie to give you an energy boost between meals
√ Chop up some raw vegetables to have with a healthy dip, or to scatter onto a pizza or a jacket potato
√ Include plenty of salads and fresh or frozen vegetables with your evening meal
Remember to choose fruit and vegetables in season, they are cheaper and taste so much better.
Eating more wholegrains will boost your heart health. This doesn’t just mean swapping from white bread to wholemeal.
√ Try other versions of wholegrains such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta (or use half and half if you find this too much), barley (delicious added to soups), buckwheat (in salads), corn and rye (try rye or pumpernickel bread).
√ Include oats, they are also a wholegrain and a good source of soluble fibre, which can help lower raised cholesterol levels.
√ Include other soluble fibre foods such as pulses, beans and lentils. Add these to soups, stews and casseroles.
Reduce your salt intake as this will help lower your blood pressure.
√ Try a low sodium substitute or use alternative flavours in cooking such as herbs, spices, chilli, garlic or lemon juice.
√ Check the labels of packaged foods (where most of the salt in our diets comes from) to compare products and look for the green or amber traffic lights.
X Add salt automatically to food during cooking or at the table, taste your food first and check if it really needs it.