What you eat can either protect you or increase your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke. A healthy diet can stop you gaining weight, reduce high blood pressure and help lower your cholesterol levels. Even if you already have a heart condition, a healthy diet can benefit your heart.
Everyone should aim for a well-balanced healthy diet. The best way to understand the different types of food that make up a healthy balanced diet is to use the Food Pyramid to plan your daily food choices.
The Food Pyramid shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each shelf to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. The shape of the Food Pyramid shows the types of foods and drinks people need to eat most for healthy eating. Healthy eating is all about choosing the right amounts from each shelf.
Try to eat:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables. More is better.
- Plenty of wholegrains such as wholegrain or wholemeal cereals, breads, potatoes, pasta and rice. Enjoy at each meal.
- Moderate amounts of reduced fat or low-fat milk and dairy products.
- Some meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. Choose lean meat, poultry (without skin) and fish. Eat oily fish up to twice a week. Choose eggs, beans and nuts. Limit processed salty meats such as sausages, bacon and ham.
- Very small amounts of unsaturated reduced fat spreads and oils.
- As little as possible of foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (not every day). They are not needed for good health.
Healthy Eating Guide
Our dietitian Sarah Noone shares her top tips
Fruit and Vegetables
A well-balanced diet should include at least 5 to 7 servings a day. Base your meals on these and try to vary the types of fruit and veg you eat. More is better.
Ideally, half your plate should be made up of fruit, vegetables or salad. Fresh, frozen, dried or tinned fruit all count.
Remember pure unsweetened fruit juice only makes up a maximum of one of your 5-7 a day, however much you drink in one day.
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease.
So, to help keep your heart healthy:
- Replace saturated fats like butter, lard and ghee with small amounts of mono (for example olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, unsalted cashews and avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (including sunflower oil and vegetable oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and oily fish).
- Cut down on foods containing trans fats which are another type of fat that can raise the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Trans fats are found in fried foods, takeaways, snacks like biscuits, cakes, pastries or hard margarines.
All fats are high in calories, so it’s important to remember even the unsaturated fats should only be used in small amounts.
Eating too much salt can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease. So to keep your heart healthy it’s important that you don’t eat too much salt each day.
Getting to know your way around nutrition labels will go a long way to help you do this. Why not try using our simple food shopping card.
Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can be harmful to your heart. Alcohol is also high in calories, so it can lead to weight gain.
If you drink alcohol, it’s important to keep within the recommended guidelines.
What can I do to get on track?
Ask yourself: am I eating the correct amount of servings from each shelf of the Food Pyramid.