10 steps towards eating for a healthy heart

It’s National Heart Month so to raise awareness about heart health, The London Bridge Dietetics department has put together their top tips to help keep your heart healthy.

A healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in protecting our hearts. Adopting aspects of a traditional Mediterranean diet can help effectively manage cardiac risk factors including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, thickening of arterial walls and body weight.

Follow these 10 steps towards eating for a healthy heart:

1) Cut down on your saturated and trans fat “Bad Fats”

  • Lower your intake of full fat dairy products, fatty meat and meat products, cakes, chocolate, pastries, crisps, fast food and cooking margarine

*Tip! Choose tomato based sauces rather than creamy sauces

2) Include sources of monounsaturated fats “Good Fats”

  • Use olive oil and rapeseed oil rather than butter/lard in food preparation

3) Aim to have two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily

  • Try salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna (not canned!), kippers, herring, trout, sardines

4) Achieve your ‘5 a-day’ with a mixture of fruit and vegetables

  • Remember fruit juice, fresh, dried and frozen varieties all count

*Tip! Start your day with a glass of fruit juice or add sliced banana to cereal

5) Add fibre-rich foods to your diet

  • Try oats, chick-peas, beans, fruit and vegetables, and wholegrains

*Tip! Why not try adding chick-peas or beans to soups or stews – these will also help to feel fuller for longer

6) Try functional foods such as Benecol, Flora Pro Activ or Supermarket own-brand yogurts

  • Aim for 2-3g/day of Plant Stanols/Sterols found in these functional foods

7) Trial soya products

  • Aim for 25g Soya protein/day

*Tip! Try soya nuts, soya mince or soya dairy products as alternatives to fatty meats and full fat dairy products

8) Reduce salt intake to less than 6g per day

  • Remember salt is already found in everyday foods such as bread, cereals and tinned food

9) Consume alcohol within healthy limits

  • For men limit alcohol to 3-4units per day and for women, reduce to 1-2units per day

*Tip! 1 unit = 125ml glass of wine

                         ½ pint of beer

                         25ml spirit measure

10)  If you're overweight aim to lose 5-10% of body weight

  • Gradual sustainable weight loss (1-2lbs/week) is recommended to help move towards a healthy BMI of 20-25kg/m2

*Tip! Portion control – limit meat serving to 100g and bulk out meals with plenty of vegetables

Additional lifestyle considerations to keep your heart healthy include increasing physical activity (aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day), smoking cessation and prescribed medications as advised by a healthcare professional.

If you would like further information on eating for a healthy heart, please contact the London Bridge Dietetics Department on 020 7234 2282.

Find out more about National Heart Month by visiting the British Heart Foundation.

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