Food for the heart

Health Hub staff
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Food for the heart

To lower your blood cholesterol naturally you must change your diet to one that is low in sat fats and follows general healthy eating guidelines that are good for your heart and general wellbeing.

Changing your eating pattern to a healthier one is good for everyone and it’s easier than you’d think. For starters, this is what you need to do:

  • Use margarine spreads instead of butter or dairy blends.
  • Use a variety of oils for cooking — suitable choices of oil include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive and peanut.
  • Use salad dressings and mayonnaise made from oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean and olive.
  • Choose low- or reduced-fat milk and yogurt or “added calcium” soy beverages.
  • Try to limit cheese and ice-cream to twice a week.
  • Eat fish (any type, fresh or canned) at least twice a week.
  • Choose lean meat (trimmed of fat, chicken without skin). Try to limit fatty meats including sausages and delicatessen meats such as salami.
  • Snack on plain, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit.
  • Incorporate dried peas (for example, split peas), dried beans (for example, haricot beans, kidney beans), canned beans (for example, baked beans, three-bean mix) or lentils into two meals a week.
  • Make vegetables and grain-based foods such as breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, noodles and rice the major part of each meal.
  • Limit takeaway foods (pastries, pies, pizza, hamburgers and creamy pasta dishes) to once a week.
  • Limit snack foods (potato crisps, corn chips) to once a week.
  • Limit cakes, pastries and chocolate or creamy biscuits to once a week.

Plant-based foods
Cutting down on foods high in saturated fat may leave quite a gap in your daily food intake. Eat more of the following — they’re low in saturated fats, higher in the poly and monounsaturated fats and are good sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals:

  • Bread (preferably wholegrain)
  • Cereals (preferably wholegrain)
  • Pasta, rice, noodles
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes (for example, kidney beans, baked beans, lentils)

Cholesterol in food
So-called "dietary" cholesterol is found only in animal products. There is none in avocado, nuts, vegetable oils, grains, fruit or vegetables.

Cholesterol in food can raise cholesterol in the blood, but not to the same extent as saturated fats. The Heart Foundation recommends that people at risk of heart disease should restrict their intake of cholesterol foods such as offfal (for example, brains, liver, kidneys).

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