5 Steps To A Heart Healthy Diet, According To An Expert

Safeguard your heart and lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases by adopting a heart-healthy diet, as recommended by UR.Life's nutrition expert.

By URLife Team
30 Oct 2023

Taking care of your heart and cardiovascular health is more important now than ever.. According to a 2023 report issued by the World Health Federation, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have become the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 20.5 million lives each year. Numerous dietary regimens place significant emphasis on what one should avoid. However, the most potent and empowering diets shift the focus toward what you can and should incorporate into your eating habits.


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The symbiotic relationship between proper nutrition and a healthy heart is indisputable. We spoke to Dr. Lakshmi K, Head Nutritionist, UR.Life about the importance of a heart-healthy diet. She explains that a heart-healthy diet, for instance, plays a pivotal role in diminishing your overall cholesterol levels, particularly the detrimental LDL cholesterol. Moreover, it helps in regulating blood sugar and triglyceride levels, while also contributing to a reduction in blood pressure. Potassium, abundant in various fruits and vegetables, stands out as an example, aiding in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure levels.


Dietary choices can effectively address risk factors associated with heart disease and heart-related conditions. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet are recognised for their potential to promote heart health and overall well-being.  DASH diet limits salt to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day, which is 1 teaspoon of table salt. The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole, minimally processed foods. It encourages the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, fish and poultry.


On the other hand, the DASH diet recommends 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products per day, such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese. These dairy options are lower in saturated fat, which can be beneficial for heart health.


In essence, adopting a healthier diet can shorten or even eliminate the likelihood of developing certain health issues in the future. Dr. Lakshmi further adds that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for dietary recommendation for all those who are at risk or are suffering from cardiovascular conditions. It is recommended to consult a nutritionist who can suggest an exact diet after evaluating their current health condition.


Related Post: What To Eat For A Healthy Heart


5 Steps To A Heart-Healthy Diet

Adding specific ‘heart-healthy’ foods is as vital as reducing or eliminating other foods from your diet. This principle is particularly relevant when it comes to promoting heart health. A heart-healthy diet is part of an overall heart-protective lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, not smoking, and stress management. Following these dietary guidelines can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall cardiovascular well-being:


Here are five steps to set you on the path to better heart health:

1. Include antioxidants to clear artery buildup

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are packed with antioxidants like anthocyanins and flavonoids, which help protect the heart by reducing inflammation and improving blood vessel function. Vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, and kale are abundant in antioxidants like vitamins C and E, as well as carotenoids. Besides, dark chocolates, oranges and green tea are also good for heart health. Antioxidants play a crucial role in reducing the risk of heart disease by exerting anti-inflammatory effects on your blood vessels. They actively contribute to the removal of plaque buildup in your arteries, helping to maintain clear and healthy blood vessels.


2. Eat more fibre-rich fruits and vegetables

Many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, bananas, and mushrooms, are rich in potassium, which aids in the regulation of blood pressure. These foods are also low in calories and high in fibre, helping to maintain a healthy weight and control cholesterol levels. Consider incorporating items like pomegranates, blueberries, tomatoes, and spinach into your meals.


3. Rely on whole grains to lower cholesterol

Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread are preferred over refined grains. They contain more fibre and nutrients, which contribute to lower cholesterol and better heart health. It's a good practice to aim for five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, ensuring a diverse selection of three different vegetables and two types of fruit in your diet. This dietary approach can significantly benefit your heart health.


4. Build heart strength with lean proteins

Choosing lean sources of protein, such as chicken breast,fish, legumes, and tofu, reduces saturated fat intake, which can raise cholesterol levels.  Fish and chicken breast are excellent choices for lean protein. Removing the skin helps reduce saturated fat content. Egg whites also are an excellent source of protein.


5. Regulate heart rate with omega-3 fatty acids

Including a variety of these foods in your diet can help you obtain a balanced intake of omega-3 fatty acids and support heart and overall health. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout are not only rich in protein but also provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Beside this, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and canola oil are suitable sources for omega 3 fatty acids.


Related Post: 12 Heart-Healthy Foods To Add To Your Diet


Things to consider when following heart-healthy diet

Limit saturated and trans fats

Trans fats are among the most harmful dietary components, as they not only elevate levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) but also reduce levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Ideally, your daily intake of trans fats should be limited to just 1 per cent of your total daily calories.


Trans fats are often found in processed and fried foods, as well as in certain margarines and oils. Foods like pastries and other baked goods may also contain trans fats. Prioritising heart-healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and avoiding these harmful fats is a significant step in maintaining cardiovascular well-being. Unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts, are recommended. These fats can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation.


Stay active all day long

Engaging in physical activity can raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often referred to as "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is protective for the heart, as it helps remove excess cholesterol from your bloodstream. Exercise can also lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol that can contribute to the buildup of plaque in your arteries. It's recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This can be achieved by dedicating 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  This can include activities like brisk walking, cycling, weight lifting, yoga, playing sports, or any form of movement that gets your heart rate up. You can also try taking short walks, using the stairs instead of the elevator, and being active in your daily tasks can contribute to your overall activity levels.


Limit salt and added sugar intake

Reduce your intake of high-sodium and processed foods, as excessive salt can raise blood pressure. Gradually reduce the amount of salt you add to recipes, and explore other seasonings like garlic, lemon, vinegar, and various herbs to enhance flavour. Processed and convenience foods often contain high levels of sodium. Minimise your consumption of items like canned soups, frozen dinners, and pre-packaged snacks. Reduce or eliminate sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, and sweetened iced tea. Drink water,  yoghurt, cereal, nut butter, unsweetened herbal tea, or flavoured water with no added sugar instead.


Follow Portion control and plan meals

Portion control and meal planning are crucial for maintaining heart health by ensuring that you eat the right foods in appropriate amounts. Choose smaller plates and bowls to naturally limit portion sizes. Visualise your plate divided into portions: half filled with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains. This method promotes a balanced and heart-healthy meal.


Create a menu that includes a variety of heart-healthy foods. Ensure your meals are balanced with a mix of lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Make sure to have an early dinner for better absorption.


Quit smoking and limit alcohol

Quitting smoking is a crucial step for improving your overall health, especially if you have a heart condition or are at risk of heart disease. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to various health concerns, including elevated triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), and cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms).


Maintaining a heart-healthy diet is just one component of a heart-protective lifestyle. By choosing these lean protein sources over higher saturated fat options like red meat, processed meats, and full-fat dairy products, you can reduce your saturated fat intake and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, ultimately lowering the risk of heart disease. Following these dietary guidelines can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall cardiovascular well-being. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to create a personalised heart-healthy eating plan based on individual needs and health conditions.


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Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have cardiovascular conditions. Taking regular health checks can help detect cardiovascular conditions at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.



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