Here, I explain some of the choices you can make throughout your day to help you eat well and keep your heart healthy. And the good news is that it’s never too late to start!
Check out the complete PDF guide (1.97 MB) to a heart-healthy diet to find out more.
1. Eat a balanced diet
Let’s start by aiming for a well-balanced diet. It’s important to eat a range of foods to make sure that you get all the nutrients your body needs. A balanced and heart-healthy diet should include the following food groups:
- fruit and vegetables
- pulses, nuts and seeds
- lean meat, poultry, white and oily fish
- low-fat dairy products and vegetarian alternatives
- vegetable based spreads and oils, such as olive oil and rapeseed oil
- starchy foods such as bread, wholegrains and pasta
Where possible, choose options that are low in saturated fat, salt and sugar.
2. Try a rainbow of fruit and vegetables
Having a colourful variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet is also important for your health. It may even help to reduce your blood pressure, lower your risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.
Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and don’t stick to the same ones. Choosing a ‘rainbow’ of colours can help you towards your five-a-day. Eating different types will also make sure you get a range of vitamins and minerals.
3. Cut back on salt
If you’re fond of salt remember that eating too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, putting you at higher risk of coronary heart disease. Adults are recommended to eat no more than six grams of salt a day.
Three-quarters of the salt you eat comes from foods you buy – so keep an eye on food labels when you’re shopping and choose low salt options.
4. Choose the right type of fats
Fats are an important part of your diet and are essential for good health, as they provide energy and vitamins. But to help keep your heart healthy, it’s important to choose the right type of fats in your diet and to cut down on foods containing unhealthy fats.
For example, saturated fat and trans fats are typically found in processed foods, cakes and biscuits, and too much of these fats in your diet can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood.
Unsaturated fats are a healthier choice, such as olive oil, avocado and oily fish. You can learn more about these different type of fats in our guide to heart health and diet.
5. Eat enough fibre
Another healthy tip is to include lots of fibre in your diet. Eating a fibre-rich diet can help keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart disease. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble, and both types are good for you.
Soluble fibre can be digested in the body and is found in oats, barley, apples, bananas, carrots, potatoes with their skins on, beans and pulses.
Insoluble fibre can’t be digested and helps other food move through your digestive system more easily. It’s found in wholegrains such as wholemeal breads and pastas, nuts, seeds and vegetables.
6. Try healthy food swaps
Finally, don’t forget that small changes can make a big difference overall to your diet. Try swapping less healthy food options for something more nutritious to give your meals a boost. For example, when preparing meals, you might want to swap salt for herbs and spices, or butter for rapeseed oil. Or if you’re buying ready-made meals always check the food labels and opt for healthier alternatives.
You can find more ideas for simple healthier food alternatives in our guide to Heart health and diet.