A cardiac diet is a heart-healthy diet that lowers the high death rate from cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, and cardiac arrest. It may also help prevent other diet-related diseases for cardiac patients with or without diabetes.
What foods should you eat for a healthy heart?
Different types of food are necessary to supply the main nutrients required for good health. No single food contains all these materials.
Rather than highlighting the diseases which unhealthy eating causes, we are emphasizing the positive side of eating well.
1. Fruit, Vegetables and Cereals
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.
Worldwide studies demonstrate that people who eat diets high in plant foods have reduced risks of heart disease, cancers of the lung, esophagus, stomach and bowel, lower blood pressure and fewer cases of non-insulin dependent diabetes.
Here are 14 good sources of fiber:
- Whole grains
- Wheat cereals
- Citrus fruits
2. Lean Meats, Chicken and Fatty Fish
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.
Those who want to avoid heart disease should eat:
3. Foods High in Polyunsaturated Fat
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.
Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid oils extracted from plant seeds:
- Soy bean
- Grape seed
4. Healthy Nuts
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.
Here are the 10 healthiest nuts to eat for your heart:
- Brazil nut
- Pine nut
5. Omega-3 Foods
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.
The ideal sources of omega 3 are from foods like:
- Chia Seeds
What foods to avoid on a heart healthy diet?
Most of the recognized risk factors for coronary heart disease are influenced by a rich diet. Food-related risk factors include hypertension, obesity, diabetes and a diet high in cholesterol, sugar, salt, and saturated fats.
Replace one or two meals a week with healthier choices you’ll gradually get used to cooking and eating balanced meals.
1. High Cholesterol Foods
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.
The highest amounts of cholesterol are found in:
- Fatty meat
- Egg yolks
2. Fatty Foods
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 AHA 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.
Saturated fats are mostly of animal origin and are usually solid or semi-solid.
- Meat fat
- Hard margarine
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
3. Sugary Foods
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 and drinks that are surprisingly high in sugar:
- Flavored coffees
- Iced tea
- Protein bars
- Ready-made soup
- Canned fruit
- Canned baked beans
- Bottled smoothies
4. High-Sodium Foods
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.
Foods that are high in salt:
- Commercial sauces
- Meat pie
- Fish and chips
- Bouillon cubes or stock cubes
- Smoked and canned fish
Cardiac Dietary Guidelines
Obesity could cause many health problems including varicose veins, osteoarthritis, heart and circulation disease and metabolic disorders such as diabetes, high cholesterol or gallstones. Here are a few tips to follow the AHA dietary guidelines:
- Prevent and control obesity. If you are getting fat there is rarely any reason but that you’re eating too much, more than your body can use. Eat less, rather than cutting out whole categories of food.
- The foods to avoid are fairly well-known, but for the record stay clear of sugar, honey, jams, syrups, sweets, sweetened tinned fruits, jellies, ice cream, soft drink, alcohol, cakes, biscuits, scones, farinaceous dishes (spaghetti etc.), fatty meats, peanut butter, dripping, and pastries.
- Increasing physical activity will help to bring down your weight. The more you exercise the better, but it doesn’t have to be vigorous. It may be long walks or leisurely swimming, or tennis or golf. Or you may want to push yourself a bit more, such as aerobic classes.
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods. All people need to follow a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of foods, from fresh fruit and vegetables to whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy products, fish and lean cuts of meat. Limit intake of whole milk and high-fat cheeses and ice cream. Use low-fat milk products, including skim milk, cottage and ricotta cheeses.
- Use minimal fats and oils. Fats and oils are basically the same sorts of compound. Use minimal amounts of butter, margarine, oils, high-oil salad dressings, mayonnaise, cream and cream substitutes. Remember that all fats and oils are equally fattening and should be used in limited amounts to prevent becoming overweight.
- Use healthy cooking methods. 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. Foods should be prepared as much as possible without sugar, flour, or fat. Use unthickened sauces and gravies as much as possible.
- Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol contributes to the health, social and nutritional problems of many people. Alcohol abuse could also lead to heart and liver damage, and is the principal cause of one-third of all cases of high blood pressure. Low nutritional status results when habitual drinking interferes with good eating habits.
- Enjoy water. People drink large amounts of soft drinks and alcohol, which may contribute to obesity and dental caries. Where possible, quench your thirst with water. Use water rather than sweetened syrups and beverages for infants and children.
- Encourage breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the preferred method of providing a growing infant with nutrient and energy needs in the correct proportions. Breastfed babies run less risk of infection than those who are bottle-fed. Breastfeeding may also help mothers lower their risk of heart attack and stroke even a decade after giving birth.
The only long-term remedy for obesity and cardiovascular disease is a well-balanced cardiac diet. Diets should not deviate too much from your own food habits and routine because there is much less chance of your sticking to them.