Heart Healthy Diet Plan | Risk Factors & Sample Menu To Fight Back

What Is A Heart Healthy Diet?

A heart healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease and even eliminate some risk factors. Eating foods that are heart healthy and cutting back on unhealthy foods can go  long way to preventing cardiovascular disease. There are a number of factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, with LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and homocysteine at the top of the list. However, recent research has identified inflammation as being the key culprit. The good news is that healthy food choices can reduce cholesterol and inflammation and reverse heart disease.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Dr Richard M. Fleming, a cardiologist has identified essential risk factors in the inflammatory reaction for heart disease, in his book “The Heart Healthy Program”. In his program, these factors are restored to healthy ranges through a combination of a heart healthy diet which includes heart healthy foods, exercise and supplementation.

Cholesterol

LDL or “bad cholesterol” causes heart disease. HDL is “good cholesterol”, and protects you from heart disease. LDL is the first trigger for the immune reaction that can lead to heart attack or stroke, so it is necessary to keep LDL within normal levels. An ideal total cholesterol level is 150mg/dL.

ACTION: Cut down on saturated fats in your diet such as red meat, dairy products, eggs, and coconut and palm oils. Smoking also elevates LDL levels and create plaques that clog up the arteries.

Triglycerides

 These are fat globules in your blood that become elevated with excess consumption of saturated fats, processed foods and sugars. People who are over weight often have high triglyceride levels, and are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which adds to the risk of heart disease.

ACTION:  Cut down on saturated fats, processed foods and sugars.

Excess Weight

 The same foods that cause inflammation (saturated fat, processed and sugary foods, etc) also cause weight gain. In order to keep heart healthy, you have to maintain an optimal weight.

ACTION:  Cut down on saturated fats, processed foods and sugars. Use up excess calories through exercise.

Homocysteine

This is an amino acid that becomes elevated in the blood stream with the excess consumption of animal products such as red meat, and kicks off an inflammatory reaction that can lead to blood clots and heart attacks.

ACTION: Supplementation with Vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid can reduce homocysteine levels in the blood.

Antioxidants

The breakdown of cells by oxidation during the normal ageing process releases free radicals and contributes to inflammation and many other illnesses. Antioxidants act as “free radical scavengers” and counteract this process, reducing the risk of disease.

ACTION: Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Aim for 7 to 9 servings a day.

Exercise

Moderate exercise reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory substances in the body, reduces weight, boosts the immune system, promotes circulation and stengthens the heart.

ACTION: Include some exercise at least in your daily schedule, after consulting your doctor on what level of exercise is safe for you.

Fibrinogen

This is a protein that promotes blood clotting. A diet that is high in fat and animal proteins elevates fibrinogen levels.

ACTION: Cut back on meat and saturated fats

Growth Factors

These are substances that promote cellular growth, bit can also trigger inflammation if elevated in the bloodstream.

ACTION: Reduce intake of foods such as red meat, dairy products, poultry and eggs as these increase growth factor levels. A diet based on plant foods lowers growth factors.

Heart Healthy Foods

According to the Australian Heart Foundation the best heart healthy foods to include in a heart healthy diet are:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Besides being high in fibre these foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  • Wholegrains. These are high in fibre and a healthier choice than products made from refined foods.
  • Low fat dairy. These contain proteins, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Reduced fat foods are important in a health healthy diet.
  • Nuts and seeds. These are healthy sources of fat. Eaten in moderation they help raise Omega-3 levels in the diet and help reduce bad cholesterol.
  • Healthy Proteins. Moderate amounts of lean meat, poultry and seafood are good sources of nutrients.
  • Legumes and lentils. Plant based proteins are an excellent source of nutrients in a heart healthy diet.
  • Spice and herbs. These are a good substitute for salt in cooking.

A Sample Heart Healthy Diet Menu

Meal Idea Details

Breakfast

heart healthy diet breakfast

A delicious bowl of muesli with low-fat yoghurt topped with fresh berries.

Lunch

heart healthy diet lunch

Summer chickpea salad made with a can of chickpeas mixed with chopped red onion, ripe tomatoes and sprouts.

Spiced up with finely diced red chillies, lemon and black pepper.

Snack

heart healthy diet snack

Peel a fresh tangerine and enjoy!

Dinner

heart healthy diet dinner

Baked fish served with asparagus, baby potatoes and a leafy salad with a whole grain roll.

Dessert

heart healthy diet dessert

Mango, kiwi and strawberry salad with mint

In conclusion, you can reduce your risk of heart disease and even reversee it by folllowing a heart healthy diet. Be positive and focus on foods that you CAN eat, rather than just what you can’t eat. The best strategy is to have a heart healthy diet plan primarily made up of plant-based foods, with lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains. At the same time, eat heart healthy fats such as nuts, avocados and unsaturated oils in limited amounts.

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