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Food is an important part of our lives, without it we wouldn’t be able to survive. What we eat and drink affects our mood, energy levels and shape, but, most importantly, it can have a big impact on our heart’s health.
Eating a heart–healthy, balanced diet is a simple way to reduce our risk of developing heart disease as it can promote healthy cholesterol levels, a healthy blood pressure and help to keep that waist line in shape.
You can easily make your diet more heart-healthy with a few simple changes.
- eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday as they're a tasty source of nutrients, water and fibre
- cut down on cholesterol-raising saturated fats by eating less red meat, cheese, processed foods and using semi-skimmed or skimmed milk
- remember that fresh, tinned, canned, frozen and dried fruit and vegetables all count towards your 5-a-day
- include starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and chapattis and choose wholegrain options where possible to boost your fibre intake
- eat moderate amounts of protein from lean meat, fish, beans, pulses and low-fat dairy products
- if you drink alcohol, keep below the recommended limit of 2-3 units a day for men and 1-2 units a day for women
- eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, kippers and fresh tuna, twice a week as they contain omega 3 fats that are good for your heart
Know your fats
We all need a little fat in our diets to give us energy and important fat-soluble vitamins. However, fat is high in calories and can lead to weight gain which puts our heart under pressure. Also, the amount and type of fat we eat can affect our cholesterol levels and our risk of developing heart disease, so it pays to know your fats.
‘Good’ fats promote healthy cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in our arteries. They include mono-unsaturated fats, found in olive and rapeseed oil, almonds and avocados, and polyunsaturated fats that provide us with essential fatty acids such as omega 3 fats.
'Bad' fats include saturated and hydrogenated fats. Eating too much saturated fat increases our LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Foods high in saturated fats include bacon, ham, pork, lamb, butter, hard margarine, hard cheese and whole milk. Hydrogenated fats, also known as 'trans fats', are found in some processed foods and should be avoided as they raise LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and lower HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels.
You can find out more by downloading our 'Fats and the heart' leaflet found in our heart smart leaflet section or read more about maintaining healthy cholesterol levels by visiting the nhs choices website.
Eating too much salt can lead to raised blood pressure and increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. Adults should not eat more than 6g of salt per day, that's around a teaspoon; children should have even less, so watch out for salt hidden in processed foods such as cereals, ready meals, and even bread by reading the food labels. Find out more about the effect salt can have on your blood pressure by reading our downloadable 'High blood pressure and the heart' leaflet in the heart smart leaflet section.
Plates and glasses are getting much bigger and helpings are often more generous nowadays. This can easily increase our energy intake and lead to weight gain.
- reduce your portion size gradually by using smaller plates and cooking smaller quantities
- have three regular meals throughout the day; drink water or choose healthy snacks if you're feeling peckish in between
- when having take-aways order a starter size and try to only have them once a week
- cook in bulk and divide and freeze small portions so your freezer becomes your source of healthy 'take-away's and ready-meals
There are so many ways you can make you diet more heart-healthy. If you're looking for more inspiration just download our heart smart Lifestyle leaflets and read our most recent health tips in the latest news section.
For more videos on heart health visit Streaming Well