A heart disease diet centers on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. It may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is a broad term for various cardiovascular conditions that affect health and can reduce lifespan. Doctors may recommend that people at risk of or living with heart disease follow a specific diet.
Although there is no single prescribed diet, research shows that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and Mediterranean diets may improve heart health and reduce the risk of serious complications.
These dietary patterns prioritize whole foods, fruit and vegetables, fish, and lean meats rather than processed foods and others rich in sugar and salt.
This article examines the heart disease diet, the foods to choose from, and an example meal plan.
The heart disease diet helps promote cardiovascular health and reduce heart disease risk factors.
There is no single, specific heart disease diet that suits everyone. Instead, healthcare professionals may recommend personalized dietary plans based on an individual’s specific health needs, risk factors, and preferences.
Typical key elements include nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins and minerals and a reduced intake of sugar, salt, alcohol, and saturated and trans fats.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a group of conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. Examples of heart disease include:
The common denominator is that these conditions can profoundly affect a person’s health and quality of life. Heart disease is the
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Key elements of a heart disease diet typically
- Fruits and vegetables: A significant portion of the diet should include fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, all beneficial for heart health. Aim to consume a variety of colorful options to benefit from a wide range of nutrients.
- Whole grains: Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat products provide complex carbohydrates and fiber, promoting stable blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Lean proteins: Incorporating lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, beans, legumes, and tofu can help reduce the intake of saturated and trans fats often found in red and processed meat.
- Healthy fats: Heart-healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil can help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and contribute to heart health.
Learn more about foods for heart health.
Avoiding the following foods can help
- Saturated and trans fats: People should minimize fried and processed foods high in saturated and trans fats that can raise LDL cholesterol levels.
- Sodium intake: High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.
- Sugars: Reducing the intake of foods and beverages high in added sugars can help manage blood sugar levels and help maintain a moderate weight.
- Alcohol: If people consume alcohol, they should do so in moderation, as excessive intake can increase the risk of heart disease.
Here is an example of a heart-healthy meal plan for a day:
- oatmeal with fresh strawberries or blueberries sprinkled with chopped unsalted almonds or walnuts
- side of Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and a few slices of banana
- cup of green tea
- mixed green salad with grilled chicken breast strips
- simple vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of herbs
- small whole-grain roll
- baked salmon fillet with herbs and quinoa
- mixed, steamed broccoli florets, green beans, and carrots
- small bowl of mixed berries
Managing heart disease involves a
- Medication: Doctors may prescribe medications to address specific risk factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
- Regular exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity strengthens the heart and improves overall cardiovascular health.
- Stress management: Stress can contribute to heart disease. Therefore, people can use stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga.
- Regular check-ups: People should maintain regular check-ups with their healthcare team to monitor their condition and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.
Prevention of heart disease is critical. In addition to adopting a heart-healthy diet, individuals can consider the
- Avoiding smoking: For those who smoke, quitting is critical for reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Moderating alcohol intake: People should consume alcohol in moderation or as recommended by their healthcare professional.
- Monitoring key metrics: People should monitor critical health metrics, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar regularly. This can facilitate the early detection and management of any potential issues related to heart health.
It is also critical to manage any medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure and take all medications as directed by the doctor.
Learn more about preventing heart disease.
In addition, to promote heart health a person can consider the following lifestyle tips:
- prioritizing sleeping for
at least 7 hoursper night
- maintaining a moderate weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity
- staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day
Following a heart disease diet is fundamental to managing and preventing heart disease.
Individuals can take proactive steps toward better heart health by choosing heart-healthy foods, avoiding harmful ones, and following a well-rounded meal plan.
Additionally, adopting an active lifestyle and seeking regular medical guidance can further reduce the risk of heart disease and enhance overall well-being.