Heart Healthy Eating
What you eat is important to your heart health. Choosing the right foods can help lower your blood cholesterol level. This is important because high cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Limit unhealthy saturated and trans fats
Choose lower fat milk and alternatives:
- Skim or 1% milk and yogurt
- Cheese with 20% milk fat (M.F) or less - the lower the fat the better
Choose lower fat meat and alternatives and foods with healthy fats:
- Cooked, dried beans or lentils
- Tofu and other soy products
- Chicken or turkey without the skin
- Lean cuts of meat, such as round, rump and tenderloin
- Nuts, seeds and natural nut butters
Limit foods high in saturated fat and/or trans fat such as:
- Butter, hard margarine, lard, shortening, palm and coconut oil, and coconut milk
- Store bought baked goods made with the above fats
- Creamy dressings and sauces made with butter, cream and other high fat dairy products
- Bacon, bologna, salami, sausages, and fatty cuts of meat
If choosing pre-packaged foods:
- Review the Nutrition Facts table and choose only pre-packaged foods that have less than 10% DV for saturated and trans fat
When eating in restaurants:
- Choose grilled, steamed or baked foods instead of deep fried foods
- Order sauces and dressings on the side
- Ask for lower fat substitutions such as a green salad in place of a Caesar salad
- Limit dining out to 2 to 3 times per week
Choose healthy mono- and poly- unsaturated fats more often
Choose healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats.
Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide recommends you include 30-45 mL (2 to 3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise.
Sources of monounsaturated fats include:
- Nut butters
- Canola, olive and peanut oils, and non-hydrogenated soft margarine made from these oils
Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
- Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flax, sunflower, and sesame
- Safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils, and non-hydrogenated soft margarine made from these oils
Eat more foods that have omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fats are a kind of polyunsaturated fat found in fish (DHA and EPA) and in plant foods (ALA). Both kinds of omega-3s are heart healthy, but the omega-3 in fish has the most benefit.
Choose fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines or trout more often, as they contain higher amounts of omega-3 fats. Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide recommends:
- Eat at least 2 servings of fish a week instead of meat. One serving equals 75 grams (2 1/2 ounces).
Eat plant sources of omega-3 fats (ALA) such as flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu and canola oil:
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed on hot cereal
- Snack on a handful of walnuts or dried soybeans (also known as soynuts)
- Use tofu instead of meat in a stir-fry
- Use canola oil for cooking
Eat more plant foods
Plant foods have fibre that can help lower cholesterol and naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals that may protect your heart.
Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits every day.
- Add vegetables to salads, soups, stews, and stir-fries
- Buy fresh, frozen or pre-packaged fresh vegetable and fruit mixes
- Include dark green and orange vegetables every day
- Choose vegetables and fruit rather than juice because they have more fibre
Eat more whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Choose 3 to 4 servings of whole grains each day. Good choices include whole grain wheat, oats and oatmeal, rye, barley, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgar (also known as 'cracked wheat'), millet and quinoa.
- Limit refined cereals, white rice, and breads made with white flour.
- Regularly include dried or canned beans, peas and lentils.
- Eat nuts several times a week. A serving of nuts is 60 mL (1/4 cup).
Limit foods that are high in dietary cholesterol.
Only animal foods have cholesterol. Limit the following high cholesterol foods by:
- Eating organ meats, including liver pate, very sparingly.
- Limiting egg yolks to no more than 2 per week, including yolks in baking. There is no cholesterol in egg whites.
- Limiting shrimp and squid to occasional use. These are low fat choices if they are not battered and fried.
Maintain a healthy weight
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your overall risk of heart disease.
- Aim for a healthy Body Mass Index also known as BMI. Health Canada will help you to find your BMI: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/bmi_chart_java-graph_imc_java_e.html.
- Aim for a healthy waist measurement. Having a waist measurement larger than 102 cm (40 inches) for men and 88 cm (35 inches) for women may increase your risk of developing health problems such as heart disease. Healthy waist measurements may be smaller for certain ethnic groups. Discuss with your dietitian or doctor.
- To help plan meals appropriate for your age and gender, use the recommended number of servings and serving sizes given for each food group in Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.
- Limit drinks that have added sugar such as pop, iced tea, and sweetened coffee and tea drinks.
- Be physically active every day. See the Canadian's Physical Activity Guidelines at www.csep.ca/english/view.asp?x=804. If you are not active now, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
For More Information
Visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada website at www.heartandstroke.ca.
See also HealthLink BC File #68f Dietary Fats and Your Health.
Find Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide at www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide.
For more nutrition information, click on www.HealthLinkBC.ca/healthyeating/ or call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian.