These days, we’re all swamped with diet advice. There are diets that cut out carbs, diets that cut out sugar, soup diets, salad diets, paleo diets, fasting diets, ‘clean eating’ diets – diets for almost anything. This means that when it comes to planning a healthy heart diet plan, it can be tough to figure out what really matters, and what doesn’t.
Don’t worry. Incorporating heart healthy swaps into your overall balanced diet can actually be really easy. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a heart-healthy diet?
It takes a whole range of nutrients to keep your body (and your heart) ticking along nicely. So make sure your heart-healthy diet plan is nice and balanced, with all the food groups represented – including plenty of fruit and vegetables. Here are some quick tips:
- Swap bad fats for good fats. A diet that replaces saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels. That means cutting down on saturated fatty foods (like full fat dairy, fatty processed meat, and cakes and biscuits) and replacing with foods that are high in unsaturated fats: oily fish like salmon and sardines, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, and vegetable oil based spreads.
- Enjoy foods with added plant sterols. A daily intake of 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols (included in just three servings of Flora ProActiv spread or milk or one mini drink) can help lower cholesterol by 7-10% in 2-3 weeks. Elevated cholesterol levels are one of the risk factors of coronary heart disease, so it’s a good idea to take cholesterol into account when creating your heart-healthy diet plan.
- Eat more oats and barley. Eating 3g of the beta-glucans found in oats and barley every day can also help lower cholesterol levels. So, embrace that morning bowl of porridge or granola!
- Leave salty foods out. A diet that’s too high in salt can have an impact on your blood pressure – another risk factor for heart disease – so try to keep your daily salt intake to no more than 6g. To put it another way, that’s about 2.4g of sodium. Find out more about lowering blood pressure here.
- Eat more omega-3. It may sound a bit technical, but these are just ‘good’ fats that can help towards normal heart function. Oily fish tends to be a great source of omega-3: an 85g portion of salmon offers 1.6g, and an 85g mackerel fillet provides 2g. In need of recipe inspiration? Try this delicious smoked mackerel dip!
So that’s your heart-healthy diet plan sorted! But remember, there’s more to taking care of your heart than watching what you eat – your overall lifestyle matters, too. Find out more about this by checking out our handy guide here.