Maintaining a healthy diet has an important role in contributing to a healthier heart. Benefits of a healthy diet include maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure, a healthy weight, and more generally, contributes to your physical and mental wellbeing.
With 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases and more than 4 million adults in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UK, there is a need for further research into what causes these conditions and lifestyle support to aid prevention. As part of the British Heart Foundation’s lifesaving research and support into heart and circulatory conditions and their risk factors, they have a healthy eating toolkit, including over one hundred heart healthy recipes to give delicious options for everyone, including those with high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
We understand that creating a heart-healthy diet that is both nutritious and delicious can have its challenges, and making changes to your lifestyle can feel like a burden to bear. So, as part of our partnership with the British Heart Foundation, we have put together some useful tips on creating a heart-healthy diet.
How to create a heart-healthy diet
Five a day
A heart-healthy diet should be full of delicious fruit and vegetables, containing at least five portions a day. Fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals and generally low in saturated fat, calories and salt. We recommend including fruit and vegetables in each meal, from frozen to fresh, dried or tinned, there are plenty of options available.
Choosing whole grains
Whole grain varieties of carbohydrates are unrefined grains, meaning that all of their nutrients remain intact, and they are fantastic sources of fibre. Refined grains are found in white flour, white bread, white pasta, and some cereals. Swap white carbohydrates for their whole grain equivalents to contribute to a nutritionally rich diet, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and oats.
Switching from saturated fats to unsaturated fats
Eating too much saturated fat can raise your cholesterol levels which increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory conditions, such as stroke and heart attack. A small amount of fat is a crucial part of a healthy diet, as not only do fats keep us warm and provide energy, they also help your body to absorb vitamins A, D and E. To help lower cholesterol levels it is recommended that we swap saturated fats with monounsaturated fats, found in foods such as peanut butter, avocados and olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats, found in foods such as salmon, mackerel and sunflower oil.
Healthy protein sources
Protein helps the cells in your body grow and repair themselves, from your hair and skin to your vital organs, such as your heart – so eating healthy protein is a vital part of a healthy diet. To help look after your heart and circulatory health, choose lean meat and remove skin from chicken and turkey as this will help to lower the amount of saturated fat it provides. Include 1-2 portions of fish a week, making sure that one of these is oily and don’t forget plant-based protein sources like beans, pulses, tofu, nuts and seed. These are nutritious sources of protein. Even if you eat meat it’s good to also have some meat free days so you can also benefit from the wider range of nutrients.
Limiting salt intake
We need a small amount of salt (sodium) in our but most people in the UK are eating too much and this is linked to raised blood pressure. High blood pressure can put you at a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory conditions such as vascular dementia, stroke and heart attack. We recommend keeping track of your salt intake by looking at food labels, try to stick to foods labelled green or orange for salt, which means they are lower in salt per 100g. When you are seasoning meals, consider using pepper, herbs, dried garlic, spices, and lemon juice instead of salt or ready mixed salty seasonings to reduce the amount of added salt you consume.
It’s also important to address your portion sizes, without measuring out ingredients it can be easy to consume far more calories, fat and salt than you realise. This doesn’t have to mean weighing out all of your food on the scales. Using measuring cups or even your hand as a portion guide can be a quick and easy way to do this.
How to make a meal plan
Creating a meal plan may seem like a strange concept if you are used to eating what you want when you feel like it, but it doesn’t have to be a burden or a drastic change to your lifestyle. Making a meal plan can be a really effective way of keeping track of what you are eating and whether you are achieving your healthy eating goals. It can also help reduce food waste and make the food shopping an easier task.
If you have a heart and circulatory condition, or one of their risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, it may be necessary to create your meal plan with your condition in mind. For example, if you have high cholesterol, you will need to focus on having low levels of saturated fat in your meal plan. You could try swapping out your favourite sausages and meat pies for leaner alternatives, such as a healthier potato topped pie and oily fish and switch from using butter or ghee for cooking to using an unsaturated oil like olive, rapeseed or sunflower.’
A meal plan can be as simple as writing out a list for the week, making a note of what you will have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks you may want. You could also purchase a whiteboard or chalkboard to clearly display your meals for the week, or perhaps you may prefer to use a meal plan diary/notebook.
Living a balanced lifestyle is vital when it comes to maintaining healthy physical and mental wellbeing – and for that, a nutritional diet is key.
Here at Helping Hands, we’re committed to supporting you in whichever way you need to make safe and healthy living as easy as possible.
For more information, please feel free to email or simply request a call back so that we can call you at a suitable time.
Page reviewed by British Heart Foundation, on November 15, 2021