A cardiac diet is a heart healthy diet that requires you to eat more fruit, vegetables and whole-grain products. The cardiac diet lowers the high death rate from cardiovascular diseases, and may also help prevent other diet-related diseases for cardiac patients.
Plenty of myths have grown up around dieting, but here are some guidelines:
- Get enough protein, meat, fish, milk, and vegetables (such as beans) for your heart is a muscle made of protein. You need protein at every meal, including breakfast. The body does not conserve protein efficiently. Because four out of five people eat a poorly balanced breakfast, they deprive themselves of protein for up to 12 hours out of 24.
- You need some carbohydrates – foods like bread and rice. Carbohydrates in their unrefined form are essential to a healthy, well-balanced diet and are widely distributed in many of our basic foods. Extreme “fad” diets, which cut out carbohydrates, can lead to a nutritionally inadequate diet.
- Get enough iron, vitamins and protein to avoid anemia. The heart has to work harder if blood lacks red cells and is not carrying its normal load of oxygen. Iron is a food colorant, visible in red meats (particularly organ meats), dark whole grains, prunes, raisins, molasses, and all green leafy vegetables.
- Dietary fiber is fast becoming recognized as an important protective component of our diet. Most of the so-called “diseases of affluence” are associated with diets low in fiber. Fiber in the diet could well influence the risk of heart disease because of its effects on blood cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes.
Eat a variety of heart healthy foods each day.
Different types of food are necessary to supply the main nutrients required for good heart health. No single food contains all these materials. Replace one or two meals a week with healthier choices you’ll gradually get used to cooking and eating cardiac diet foods.
Fruit, Vegetables and Cereals
14 good sources of fiber to foster heart health:
- Whole grains
- Wheat cereals
- Citrus fruits
Constipation, diverticular disease and other diet-related ailments are linked with lack of dietary fiber (found only in plant foods). Bread, whole grain cereals, fruit and vegetables provide necessary dietary fiber and a variety of nutrients. They are best for replacing foods high in fat and sugar.
Lean Meats, Chicken and Fatty Fish
Those who want to avoid heart disease should eat lean meats:
People should eat less red meat to protect themselves from a possible heart attack. Red meat is a major contributor to high blood-cholesterol levels, one of three big factors in heart disease. Remove all visible fat before cooking. Avoid sausages, luncheon meats and salami-type meats. Replace some meats with beans, peas and lentils several times a week.
Foods High in Polyunsaturated Fat
Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid oils extracted from plant seeds:
- Soy bean
- Grape seed
Different fats have different effects in the body. The three types are saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are widely spread in both animal and plant fats and oils. Where saturated fats tend to raise blood cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats tend to lower it, monounsaturated fats have no particular effect.
10 healthiest nuts to eat for a healthier heart:
- Brazil nut
- Pine nut
Most nuts are highly concentrated sources of nutrients, containing fat, protein and carbohydrate as well as many vitamins and minerals. The levels of the various nutrients fluctuate widely from species to species. Pine nuts, for instance, and pistachios, contain about 50 percent fat, while the chestnut has very little fat and proportionately more carbohydrate.
The ideal sources of omega 3 are from foods like:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
The omega 3 fatty acids performed their life-saving function by lowering blood fat levels, mainly in the plasma triglycerides. The benefits of the omega 3 fatty acids do not just stop there. Benefits in the control of other important diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer could also be demonstrated.
Avoid foods that are high in energy, saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and refined sugar.
This is of significance to those who eat a rich diet, and have a high rate of coronary heart disease.
High Cholesterol Foods
The highest amounts of cholesterol are found in:
- Fatty meat
- Egg yolks
The major indicator of heart disease is cholesterol, particularly bad cholesterol, called low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Another type of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), had been found to be beneficial because it removed cholesterol deposits from the artery wall.
Cholesterol has been linked with coronary artery disease ever since it was found in the fatty deposits of artery walls affected by atherosclerosis (the thickening of the artery walls). Cholesterol comes from the food we eat and from our body. The liver is the main site of production. The body makes sufficient cholesterol for its needs, and does not rely on cholesterol in the diet.
Even on a totally vegetarian diet, humans make enough cholesterol to maintain its functions. Eating extra cholesterol simply puts more into the blood. Too much in the blood can lead to a build-up on the linings of the arteries. This can begin in childhood. Over the years, the artery becomes narrower as the build-up increases. A simple blood clot can then obstruct the artery completely. If this happens near the heart, a heart attack results; if near the brain, a stroke.
Saturated fats are mostly of animal origin and are usually solid or semi-solid:
- Meat fat
- Hard margarine
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
Fat in food is a big concern. In the average diet, about 40 percent of our “fuel” comes from fat. A sensible diet should reduce this figure to 30 percent or less. The American Heart Association says foods which are high in fat, such as fatty meats, full-cream dairy products, biscuits, pastries and fried foods should be avoided.
Excess fats in the diet may contribute to obesity, high blood cholesterol levels, heart disease and certain cancers. Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy products and use low-fat cooking methods. Use butter, margarine, cream and oils sparingly.
Foods and drinks that are surprisingly high in sugar:
- Flavored coffees
- Iced tea
- Protein bars
- Ready-made soup
- Canned fruit
- Canned baked beans
- Bottled smoothies
High sugar intake is associated with obesity and tooth decay. It’s well documented that sugar (sucrose) can greatly increase the body levels of triglycerides (a form of fat that circulates in the blood). Too much is a well-known cause of premature heart attacks, and sudden death.
Sugars, whether white, brown, raw or glucose, are solely an energy source and their nutrient content is negligible. No one will deny that sucrose, like any other high calorie food, including glucose, brings problems in relation to overweight and may thus be related to heart disease.
Foods that are high in salt:
- Commercial sauces
- Meat pie
- Fish and chips
- Bouillon cubes or stock cubes
- Smoked and canned fish
Excessive salt tends to be harmful for many people, inviting cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. Sodium from excessive use of table salt and salty processed foods may contribute to high blood pressure, and promote watery swellings in the body and the heart has to work even harder. Reducing excess sodium intake from an early age may help to control hypertension.