We all know that some foods are better for us than others, but do you know how your diet can affect your heart? An unhealthy diet can cause conditions such as diabetes and obesity, but it can also contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of these can lead to heart disease. The good news is you can help lower your risk by choosing heart-healthy foods.
Not all fat is bad for you so it’s worth taking some time to understand which types of fat to include in your diet and what to avoid. The types of fat you should avoid are trans fats and saturated fats. These can cause a waxy substance called cholesterol to build up in your arteries, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Saturated fats are those found in animal products such as butter, cheese, cream, and meats, as well as tropical oils including coconut, cocoa and palm oil. Natural trans fats are found at low levels in meat and dairy products. However, artificial trans fats, which are made when vegetable oils are altered so that they stay solid at room temperature, are found at higher levels in fried and highly processed foods, as well as baked goods.
To improve your diet and lower your risk of high cholesterol, you can therefore try cutting down on dairy products, baked goods, highly processed and fried foods, as well as choosing lean meats or cutting the fat off meat before you eat it.
Some fats, namely polyunsaturated and plant-based monounsaturated fats, have health benefits. These can be found in vegetable oils (eg olive oil), nuts, seeds and oily fish.
One very easy way to make your diet better for your heart is to replace refined grains, such as white flour, with whole grains, such as wholewheat flour. Whole grains are a good source of fibre as well as vitamins and nutrients that are good for your heart.
Try swapping white bread for whole grain bread and choosing whole grain breakfast cereals. Cakes and biscuits are generally made from white flour and usually high in saturated fat, so try to limit them to an occasional treat.
Adding more fruit and vegetables to your diet is a great way to get a dose of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants at the same time. By loading up your plate with vegetables instead of meat, refined grains and fried foods, you’ll feel fuller and get more nutrients. Vegetables and salads are great to snack on during the day too. But if you fancy something sweet, try having a piece of fruit. Many fruits and vegetables are also high in potassium, which can help lower your blood pressure.
When you’re planning a heart-healthy meal, remember to include protein. If you want to eat meat, try to choose lean meat and cook it in a way that doesn’t involve trans or saturated fat. Grilled or steamed skinless chicken breast is a better choice for your heart than fried or breaded chicken.
Fish is also a great source of protein and is low in saturated fat. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are even better, giving you a good dose of polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids. You might want to try replacing some meat-based protein portions with plant-based alternatives. Beans, peas and lentils are all high in protein and good heart-healthy choices.
Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. Lots of processed and pre-prepared foods are high in salt so the best way to avoid overdoing it on salt is to prepare your own food using fresh fruit and vegetables. You can also find reduced-salt and reduced-sodium products that you can use to add flavour while still keeping your salt intake down.
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.
Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.
Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.
The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:
Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager
Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.
Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor
Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.
Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing
Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.