The only long-term remedy for cardiovascular disease is a well-balanced cardiac diet, tailor-made for the person if possible. The cardiac diet is a heart-healthy eating plan for preventing cardiovascular disease and keeping your heart healthy.
What can you eat on a cardiac diet?
The following heart-friendly foods can be used frequently:
- Bread and cereal products (rice, spaghetti, breakfast cereal). Wholemeal cereals and bread are a good source of linoleic acid, which is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid and lowers risk of coronary heart disease.
- Vegetables and fruits. People who eat a slightly more Mediterranean diet and use vegetable oils for cooking and for dressing salads will have a lot more essential fatty acids in their bodies which should protect them against heart disease.
- Fish with the most lifesaving omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid is obtained from fish and fresh green vegetables. It is a good idea to eat fish about 3 times a week and to eat the oily fish such as cod, mackerel, sardines, haddocks, ocean trout and salmon.
- High soluble fiber foods. Soluble fiber is found in grains such as psyllium, barley and oat bran as well as in beans and lentils. These foods contain substances that may help improve your blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.
- Low-fat dairy foods (yogurt, milk, and cheese). Choose low fat dairy products such as skim milk, low-fat cheese and non-fat yogurt. Dairy fat is saturated fat, a type of fat that can dramatically raise blood cholesterol. Once the fat has been removed the food becomes heart friendly and will not affect blood cholesterol.
- Polyunsaturated oils and polyunsaturated margarine in small amounts. Polyunsaturated fats can lower blood cholesterol and are usually liquid oils extracted from plant seeds. Vegetable oils should be used for cooking. They include safflower, sunflower, soy bean, maize, and cottonseed oils (but steer clear of coconuts and coconut oils which are high in cholesterol).
How can you follow a cardiac diet?
The cardiac diet guidelines recommended here are aimed primarily at lowing the high death rate from heart disease, they may also help prevent other diet-related diseases.
- Eat a variety of foods each day. Different types of food are necessary to supply the main nutrients required for good health. No single food contains all these materials.
- Prevent and control obesity. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Reducing excess fats, alcohol and sugar and increasing physical activity will help to bring down your weight. Eat less, rather than cutting out whole categories of food.
- Eat less fat. 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.
- Eat less sugar. High sugar intake is associated with obesity and tooth decay. Sugars, whether white, brown, raw or glucose, are solely an energy source and their nutrient content is negligible.
- Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol contributes to the health, social and nutritional problems of many people. Low nutritional status results when habitual drinking interferes with good eating habits.
- Eat more fruit, vegetables, and cereals. Constipation, diverticular disease and other constipation-related ailments are linked with lack of dietary fiber (found only in plant foods). Bread, wholegrain cereals, fruit and vegetables provide necessary dietary fiber and a variety of nutrients. They are best for replacing foods high in fat and sugar.
- Eat less salt. Sodium from excessive use of table salt and salty processed foods may contribute to high blood pressure. Reducing excess sodium intake from an early age may help to control hypertension. Salt should not be added to food prepared for infants.
- Enjoy water. People drink large amounts of soft drinks and alcohol, which may contribute to obesity and/or dental caries. Where possible, quench your thirst with water. Use water rather than sweetened syrups and beverages for infants and children.
- Use lean meats, chicken and fish. 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.
- Limit fats and oils. Use minimal amounts of butter, margarine, oils, high-oil salad dressings, mayonnaise, cream and cream substitutes.
- Limit intake of whole milk and high-fat cheeses and ice cream. Use low-fat milk products, including skim milk, cottage and ricotta cheeses.
- Avoid fried foods, high-fat take-away foods, pastries, cakes, doughnuts, chocolates and fried foods.
- Use methods that require minimal fat or oil (e.g grilling, baking, braising, steaming, boiling or pressure cooking). Use recipes requiring only moderate amounts of fat.