Healthy eating for a healthy heart

These basic guidelines on healthy eating will help you lower the risk of heart disease.

Choose healthier fats, as well as foods high in fibre and rich in antioxidants.

High levels of Cholesterol, Triglycerides and LDL (a carrier of cholesterol) in the blood are RISK FACTORS for heart disease.

Other risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sufficient vitamins and minerals
  • Diabetes

What is Cholesterol?

It is a white, waxy substance found naturally in the body and in foods like prawns, liver, kidneys, egg yolk, dairy products, meat and chicken. Cholesterol can collect in the body when too many of these foods are eaten.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood by two different carriers, LDL and HDL.

LDL is the "bad" one, which transports cholesterol to be deposited in arteries, and HDL is the "good" one, which transports cholesterol back to the liver so that it can be taken out of the body. High HDL levels are therefore good and high LDL levels are not.


Use fats sparingly. Use vegetable oils rather than animal fats.

Saturated Fats

These can raise LDL levels and are found in meat, sausages, processed meat, chicken skin, pork fat, egg yolk, full cream dairy products, pastries, coconut and palm kernel oil and fried food.

  • Choose skinless chicken, lean meat and fat-free or low fat dairy products
  • Grill chicken, meat and fish instead of frying
  • Boil or poach eggs instead of frying

Hydrogenated fats are found when unsaturated fats are changed to saturated fats during processing - they are found in biscuits, cakes and hard margarine.

These fats are listed as "partially hydrogenated fat" on food labels. "Trans fatty acids" are formed when these fats are changed. We need to REDUCE the intake of these trans fats in our diet.

Unsaturated fats

These fats help to lower cholesterol and LDL levels IF THEY REPLACE SATURATED FATS in your diet. Include these fats in your diet to keep nerves healthy, balance the hormone system and help the immune system fight infections.

There are two types:

1. Poly-unsaturated fats

There are two types: omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-6 sources are: pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and hemp seeds; corn; soya beans; walnuts; wheatgerm and sunflower and sesame oil.

Omega-3 sources are: fish oils from mackerel, herrings, salmon, pilchards, sardines and a little in tuna; flax seeds or flax oil; dark green vegetables.

2. Mono-unsaturated fats

Sources are avocados, olives, olive oil and canola oil. Nuts have varying amounts of unsaturated fats.

Tips on including unsaturated fats:

  • Include raw seeds and nuts in cereals and salads
  • Add seeds to yoghurt
  • Snack on unsalted nuts and dried fruit
  • Include fatty fish in your diet 3 to 4 times a week, e.g. tuna or salmon salad, sardines or pilchards on toast, grilled salmon or mackerel or sushi

Other factors to consider in daily eating


Eat foods high in fibre as they may help to lower cholesterol levels.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit everyday

  • Include fruit with breakfast and as snacks between meals
  • Include salads with lunch, e.g. have carrot and celery sticks, a mixed salad with tuna or lean chicken, lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices on your sandwich or roll
  • Include 2 different colours of vegetables with dinner, e.g. broccoli and cauliflower, green beans and carrots, spinach with mushrooms and butternut or peas and corn

Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly.

These have protein and can replace animal protein for some meals during the week

  •  Include kidney or butterbeans with vegetables for a stir-fry or stew; eat baked beans on wholewheat toast; add lentils to lean mince or stews, or eat with salad; try soya mince, soya patties or soya yoghurt

Make starchy food part of most meals.

Choose brown rice, wholewheat or seed bread and rolls, bran cereals, oat bran and oats porridge, potatoes with the skin on, sweet potatoes and mealies.


These help to prevent damage to our bodies. Eating the following food with antioxidants will help prevent illness, infections and heart disease:

  • Vitamin C, found in: citrus fruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli and peppers.
  • Vitamin E, found in: sunflower and sesame seeds, wheatgerm, nuts, avocados and legumes.
  • Selenium, found in: oysters, herrings, tuna, molasses and mushrooms.
  • Beta Carotene, found in: yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Lycopene, found in: tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, guavas, watermelon and papaya.
  • Folic Acid, found in: green leafy vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals.

Drink alcohol sensibly

Excess alcohol raises blood fat (triglyceride) levels. 2 drinks per day is acceptable, especially in the form of red wine.

Use salt and food high in salt sparingly

Eating too much salt can raise blood pressure. Try not to add salt to food ? use natural products to flavour food, e.g. fresh garlic, ginger, lemon juice, herbs, chillies and black pepper.

Remember to be active and if you smoke, try to quit.

You only have one life, so make the most of it!

**If you need more advice, click on the ''Ask the Dietitian'' to pose a question to our Registered Dietitian

These basic guidelines on healthy daily eating will help you to lower the risk of heart disease.  Choose healthier fats, as well as foods high in fibre and rich in antioxidants.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided by the SPAR Group Ltd for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.