Six diet tips for a healthy heart

Abbey Stanford profile photo
Specialist Health Editor at Bupa UK
29 September 2020
Next review due September 2023

Have you ever wondered how important the link between your diet and a healthy heart is? In a nutshell, what you eat can have a real impact on the health of your heart. By choosing a healthy diet you can reduce your risk of heart disease, weight gain and high blood pressure. It can also help to lower your cholesterol levels and benefit your heart, even if you already have a heart condition.

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 guide to a heart-healthy diet (PDF, 1.97MB) 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 (PDF, 1.97MB).

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 (PDF, 1.97MB).

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Abbey Stanford profile photo
Abbey Stanford (she/her)
Specialist Health Editor at Bupa UK

    • Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics. Cardiovascular disease. Oxford Medicine Online., published April 2020
    • Preventing excess weight gain. Recommendations. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)., published 13 March 2015
    • Hypertension. Patient., last edited February 2020
    • Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics. Cancer. Oxford Medicine Online., published April 2020
    • The Eatwell Guide. Public Health England., published September 2018
    • Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics. Current dietary patterns in the UK. Oxford Medicine Online., published April 2020
    • A healthy, balanced diet. British Nutrition Foundation., last reviewed October 2016
    • Food fact sheet: Fat facts. British Dietetic Association., published January 2018
    • Fats explained. British Nutrition Foundation., reviewed October 2017
    • Salt. Heart UK., accessed September 2020
    • Food fact sheet: Fibre. British Dietetic Association., published September 2016
    • Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics. Macronutrients and energy balance. Oxford Medicine Online., published April 2020

Did you find our advice helpful?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our healthy lifestyle articles.