Eating to keep your heart healthy

The Eatwell Guide is the UK's healthy eating model for the general population. It is a practical tool to help us to make healthy choices about the foods and drinks we choose to consume. Some of the healthy eating guidelines in the Eatwell Guide may be particularly relevant if you are looking to eat well to protect your heart. Good dietary patterns that include wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, oily fish and choosing unsaturated fats (such as the Mediterranean dietary pattern) are important for good heart health. Following the Eatwell Guide will help you to choose a better dietary pattern.

Food or nutrient Importance for heart health Top tips

Fish and oily fish

There is not enough evidence to recommend supplements including omega-3 capsules to reduce CVD risk, but eating at least 1 portion of oily fish is included in dietary advice.

 

Aim to eat at least two portions (2 x 140g) of sustainably-sourced fish each week, at least one of which should be oily fish. Examples of oily fish include mackerel, salmon and sardines.

Saturated fat

 

 

Too much saturated fat in the diet can raise your cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease.  Current UK government guidelines advise cutting down on saturated fat and replacing with some unsaturated fat. The Committee that advises the government on nutrition is looking at the most recent evidence for saturated fat and heart health, but the UK guidelines are based on the best available evidence at the moment.

 

 

To reduce saturated fat:
  • Choose lean cuts of meat such as lean beef mince, trim off any excess fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.
  • Grill, steam, poach, boil or microwave rather than fry or roast foods whenever possible to avoid adding fat when cooking.
  • Remove the skin from chicken, duck and turkey, Replace some of the meat in dishes with pulses (like lentils, beans and peas), soya or Quorn™
  • Cut back on fats and oils high in saturates such as lard, ghee, butter, palm oil and coconut oil and use oils and fats that are high in unsaturated fat (monounsaturates and polyunsaturates), such as rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils/spreads. But only use them in small amounts or opt for lower-fat spreads, as all types of fat are high in energy (calories).
  • Choose semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk rather than whole milk; opt for low- or reduced-fat dairy products such as, low-fat yogurt, low-fat soft cheese and reduced-fat hard cheese.
  • If using grated cheese, use smaller servings of vintage or mature cheddar so that you try and eat less
  • Go easy with creamy and cheesy sauces (e.g. carbonara)
  • Pastry is high in saturated fat, so try not to have pies, pastries and sausage rolls too often. And go for pies with just a lid or a base.
  • Compare food labels to choose options that are lower in saturates.
  • Choose snacks that are lower in saturated fat and include some unsaturated fat instead of foods such as fried crisps, chocolate and pastries – try a handful of unsalted nuts and seeds or crispbreads with oily fish spreads and avocado.

 

Trans fat Trans fats are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (industrial) and naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products. Industrial trans fats have been shown to have an adverse effect on blood cholesterol.  Concern about the health effects of consuming high intakes of trans fats has led to changes in manufacturing practices in recent years. Fat spreads sold in the UK do not now contain trans fats and average trans fatty acid intake in the UK diet is now well below the recommended limit.
Wholegrain and high-fibre foods Scientific reviews have reported that increased intakes of fibre in the diet may reduce risk of heart disease.

Eat a mixture of different wholegrain and high-fibre products when possible, such as:

  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals
  • Wholegrain crackers/crispbread
  • Wholemeal and wholegrain bread, pitta and chapatti
  • Brown rice
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Potatoes with their skins on
  • Whole oats and barley
  • Pulses (e.g. lentils, beans, peas)
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods such as oats and barley contain a type of fibre known as beta glucan, which may help to reduce cholesterol levels if enough is eaten.

 

Salt

Salt is the main source of sodium in the diet, a high intake of which is related to high blood pressure.

Adults should be aiming for no more than 6g of salt each day.

Most of the salt we consume is from salt added during the processing and manufacture of foods for flavour, texture and preservation, like bread, bacon, ham, cheese and soups and sauces.

Try and choose foods with lower levels of salt by checking the salt content on labels and don’t add any extra to cooking or at the table.

Instead of adding salt to food, try adding pepper, herbs or spices such as mint, basil or chilli to add flavour.

 

Fruit and vegetables

Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. A portion of beans or lentils also counts towards 1 of your 5 A DAY.

 

 

Foods with added plant sterols and stanols

Foods with added plant stanols and sterols, eaten regularly so as to provide about 2g stanols/sterols per day, can help lower raised cholesterol levels.

These food products are targeted at people with high cholesterol levels, A variety of such products are now available including spreads, yogurts, and yogurt drinks. These foods are not a replacement for a healthy, balanced diet or for any cholesterol lowering medication Whilst there is evidence that these ingredients have a cholesterol lowering effect, there is no evidence to show they will lead to fewer heart attacks.

 

 

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