Cardiac Diet: Proven Heart Healthy Foods to Include in Your Diet

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Cardiac Diet: Proven Heart Healthy Foods to Include in Your Diet

The cardiac diet is a healthy eating plan that includes foods that benefit your heart’s health. Foods that are healthy for your heart are full of nutrients, minerals, fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats. These heart-healthy foods prevent the buildup of cholesterol and strengthen your cardiovascular health.


Following the cardiac diet also means getting enough exercise to keep your heart strong and functioning properly.

As well as foods to include on the heart-healthy diet, you should also avoid too much sodium and sugar and keep away from saturated and trans fats. Sticking to the cardiac diet can help you significantly lower your risk of coronary heart disease.

In this article, you will learn about the benefits to your heart’s health by following a cardiac diet. You will also find out some beneficial heart healthy meal plans that are recommended by the American Heart Association diet.

What is a Cardiac Diet?

The cardiac diet is an eating plan that we all should stick to if we want to enjoy good health and prevent excess weight.

The journal Current Cardiology Reports says that a heart-healthy diet is the consumption of nutritious foods including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The presence of fiber, minerals, vitamins, and complex carbs help to reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. (1)

Interestingly, the cardiac diet doesn’t mean avoiding all types of fats. Researchers have found that polyunsaturated fatty acids in a healthy-heart diet plan help to prevent and treat various cardiovascular diseases. (2)

Some common types of heart-healthy meal plans can include the Mediterranean diet, a vegetarian diet, or other plant-based diets. (1)

The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing says that healthy food choices on the American Heart Association diet should be viewed as a process, not an endpoint. This means that the cardiac diet menu doesn’t have to be a strict avoidance diet but a long-term eating plan that promotes a healthy heart. (3)

One type of cardiac diet plan is the DASH diet, or, the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. This heart-healthy menu plan includes foods such as chicken, fish, nuts, and other low-fat foods. This type of diet for a healthy heart also includes foods rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and fiber – all important nutrients you need to consume for good cardiac health. (4)

Let’s look in more detail at the many types of heart-healthy foods that you should include in a cardiac diet menu.

Fruits and Vegetables are Heart Healthy Foods

If you are following the cardiac diet, you should consume a large number of fruits and vegetables to boost the health of your heart.

There are a number of reasons why fruits and vegetables are good for your heart. Researchers explain that fresh fruit and veg are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which are essential for a healthy heart. (5)

One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that high consumption of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in women especially. (6)

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Other studies have found that green leafy vegetables are good for the heart because they help to boost cardiac function. (7)

Research published in the journal Advances in Nutrition recommends some of the best vegetables and fruits that are good for your heart. (8)

Vegetables that are very “heart-healthy” include broccoli, spinach, red and orange vegetables, tomatoes, green beans, and carrots.

Fruits that are good to include in a cardiac diet plan include bananas, apples, pears, and citrus fruits.

Other studies have shown that berries are extremely healthy for your heart. Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and chokeberries contain polyphenols (antioxidants), vitamins, fiber, and micronutrients that have cardiovascular protective properties. Researchers recommend berries to be part of a heart-healthy diet plan. (9)

Find out more about the benefits to your general health of consuming green leafy vegetables.

Healthy Protein to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Protein contains important amino acids that are essential for healthy bones, muscles, skin, and to repair tissue. Nutrients in protein also help to maintain good heart health.

When choosing the best type of protein for a cardiac diet, it is important to avoid or reduce the consumption of protein that contains saturated fats. Fatty red meat is definitely among the foods to avoid on a cardiac diet.

Researchers recommend that a diet menu plan for good heart health can contain lean red meat without traces of visible fat. Lean red meat is a good source of B-group vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids – all of which promote good heart health. (10)

However, to keep your heart healthy and prevent cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association recommends cutting down on red meat. Good protein choices for a diet to prevent heart disease can include poultry and fish as they are low in saturated fat. (11)

Some good protein sources on the cardiac diet food list include chicken breast, turkey, white fish, salmon, and eggs.

You may be surprised to find eggs on the list of heart-healthy diet foods, as many people believe that their cholesterol content is bad for your heart. However, a 2016 review of studies into the cardiovascular effects of eating an egg every day did not find a link with moderate egg consumption and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. (12)

Learn more about the many health benefits of eggs and how they can be a healthy source of protein.

If your cardiac diet plan is based on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can learn about great plant-based sources of protein.

Whole Grains on the Heart Healthy Diet Plan

As part of your cardiac menu diet plan, you should include plenty of whole grains because they are rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

Whole grains are found in foods such as whole-wheat bread, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, and grains such as oats, buckwheat, and barley.

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A 2016 meta-analysis on the benefits of whole grain foods found that increasing consumption of these foods helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Consuming around 200 g of whole-grain food products daily helped to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. (13)

The reason why whole-grain products should be on the list of cardiac diet foods is that their fiber content helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. (14)

Other studies confirm that 3 servings of whole grain foods every day can reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular-related illnesses. (15)

Whole grains are good for you because they are complex carbohydrates that can keep you feeling fuller for longer. Find out the benefits of complex carbohydrates if you want to lose weight and keep your heart healthy.

One good source of whole grains that promote good heart health is quinoa. An added benefit is that quinoa is gluten-free so is suitable for people with gluten sensitivity.

Heart Healthy Fats for a Cardiac Diet Menu

Fats such as extra virgin olive oil and omega-3 are extremely good to keep your cardiovascular system in good working order.

It is good to remember that not all fats are equal and that unsaturated fats have a place on the cardiac diet menu.

One study involving over 7,000 men and women found that regular extra virgin olive oil consumption lowered a person’s risk of heart disease. It was found that the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death from cardiovascular problems was reduced greatly by consuming 10 g of olive oil daily. (16)

The reason why extra virgin olive is so good for your heart is that it contains anti-inflammatory properties that boost cardiovascular health. (17)

Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in fatty fish as well as some nuts such as walnuts. Researchers have found that consuming omega-3 in a heart-healthy diet reduces your risk of heart disease. (18)

The American Heart Association diet also recommends consuming oily fish such as a salmon, mackerel, and herring at least 2 times a week. (18)

Learn more about the benefits to your cardio health by consuming omega-3 supplements every day. If your heart-healthy diet is based on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can find out why hemp seed oil is a good alternative to fish oil.

Nuts and Seeds Provide Nutrition on a Cardiac Diet

One way to help clean out your arteries is to consume more nuts and seeds as part of your heart healthy diet plan.

Most nuts contain healthy fats that have cardiovascular protective properties. The journal Nutrients reported that an increased consumption of nuts helps to lower hypertension, inflammation, and reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. What’s more, there is no evidence that eating more nuts every day leads to weight gain. (19)

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For example, almonds are a healthy type of nut to enjoy as a heart-healthy snack. Studies have shown that consuming a serving of almonds daily lowers cholesterol and helps to prevent a buildup of plaque in the arteries. (20)

Other nuts that are good for your heart are Brazil nuts, walnuts, and cashew nuts.

Seeds also contain important antioxidants that benefit heart health. Seed consumption helps to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and promote good vascular function. In fact, seeds are so good for you that nutritionists call them natural health capsules. (21)

Some of the best seeds to eat on your cardiac diet menu include chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds.

You can also find out why you should soak nuts and seeds before eating them.

Legumes, Peas, and Beans are Good Foods on the Cardiac Diet

Cardiac diet guidelines also include regularly consuming portions of peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas to promote a healthy heart.

One study involving over 9,000 men and women found that increased consumption of legumes can help protect the health of your heart. Researchers tracked people over a 19-year period and found that eating plenty of legumes in the diet helped to lower the risk of coronary heart disease. (22)

Eating a diet rich in peas, lentils, and other legumes was also shown to reduce the risk of suffering from ischemic (coronary) heart disease. (23)

Researchers from Harvard Medical School also say that eating peanut butter is good for your heart. In moderation, nut butters such as peanut butter help prevent heart disease and contain a good amount of potassium, fiber, and protein. (24)

Dairy Products on the Cardiac Diet

There is also some evidence that consuming moderate amounts of dairy products can be included as part of a heart-healthy eating plan.

You may be surprised to learn that you don’t always have to look for low-fat dairy products if you want to keep your heart healthy. Research published in 2017 challenges the previous findings about the link between high fat dairy products and a higher risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes. (25)

The research mentions that the majority of evidence supports the hypothesis that dairy fat intake is not typically accompanied with an higher risk of the above health conditions, although it is in contrast to most dietary guidelines recommending the increased consumption of low fat or fat-free dairy products.

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In fact, consuming moderate amounts of full-fat dairy products could be better for your heart than low-fat dairy. Scientists have found that full-fat dairy contains an abundance of nutrients as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Some healthy full-fat dairy products include raw yogurt (unflavored) and kefir. (26)

One of the problems of low-fat dairy products such as flavored yogurts or milk drinks is that they contain high amounts of sugar. Foods with too much sugar are something to avoid on the cardiac diet. If you choose low-fat dairy products, read the product label carefully to check the sugar levels and overall calorie content. (26)

Learn more about what kefir is and how this fermented milk drink can help improve your digestion. If you avoid dairy products, there are some great dairy alternatives that can provide you with plenty of calcium.

Foods to Avoid on the Cardiac Diet

If you are trying to stick to a heart-healthy diet, it is extremely important to avoid foods that are bad for your heart.

One of the foods to avoid if you have heart problems is refined carbohydrates. These types of foods are white bread, pastries, and other cooked products made using white four. Researchers have found that excessive amounts of sugar and refined carbs are linked to a greater risk of coronary heart disease. (27)

Saturated fats and trans fats should also be avoided or reduced if you want to improve the health of your heart. Scientists say that you should replace saturated fats with healthier unsaturated fats such as olive oil. On the cardiac diet, you should replace red meat with nuts and fish as your main protein sources. (28)

For their heart-healthy diet plan, the American Heart Association warns against consuming trans fats and high amounts of saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends to achieve no more than 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. Examples of saturated fat include fatty beef, pork, lard, cream, butter and cheese. (29)

Research published in 2018 has also found out that sugar-laden foods and drinks pose more of a risk to your heart’s health than saturated fats! Even healthy fruit juices can contain as much sugar as a can of soda. (30)

Other cardiac diet foods to avoid include those that have high levels of sodium. Too much sodium in your diet is linked to high blood pressure and a greater risk of heart disease. (31)

Heart Healthy Diet Plan (Cardiac Diet Plan)

Let’s look at some examples of a cardiovascular diet menu plan that can help to improve the health of your heart.

Heart Healthy Breakfast

Oatmeal breakfast. 1 cup of cooked oatmeal with some chopped almonds and a topped with a sliced banana. You can also sprinkle on some cinnamon to taste.

Heart-healthy omelet. Make your omelet using one whole egg and the whites of 2 eggs. Mix in some chopped red bell pepper, broccoli, and other vegetables of your choice. Eat with a slice of toasted wholegrain bread with a tablespoon of hummus.

Breakfast smoothie. Mix some plain yogurt, a banana, a serving of sunflower seeds, a few walnuts, and some dates for sweetness. Blend well, pour into a glass and sprinkle some cinnamon on the top.

Heart Healthy Lunch

Chicken salad. Chop up one cooked skinless chicken breast and mix with fresh vegetables and some greens such as lettuce, kale, or spinach leaves. Add a few slices of avocado. Squeeze some lemon juice and add some extra virgin olive oil. Consume with 2 slices of whole grain bread.

Stuffed pita sandwich. Fill a whole-wheat pita bread with some 1/2 mashed avocado mixed with ½ a small can of tuna. Add some of your favorite veggies to the pitas bread and enjoy.

Turkey sandwich. Use 2 slices of wholemeal bread and spread 1 tablespoon of hummus on one of the slices. Add some slices of cooked turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber.

Quinoa bowl. Mix a cup of cooked quinoa with 2 chopped roasted baby beets, chopped shallots, and some crumbled feta cheese. Add some extra virgin olive oil and splash of balsamic vinegar to taste.

Heart Healthy Dinner

Salmon. Bake one salmon fillet and add some cooked green beans, toasted walnuts, toasted sunflower seeds, and a mixed green salad. Each with a baked small sweet potato or cooked quinoa.

Chicken stir-fry. Heat some olive oil in a wok and stir fry thinly sliced chicken breast, broccoli, green beans, sliced eggplant, and bok choy. Use a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Serve with brown rice.

With all of the above cardiac diet menus, you can add one serving of fruit and some semi-skimmed milk.

Heart Healthy Snacks (Cardiac Diet Snacks)

As part of your heart healthy diet plan, you should also include healthy snacks throughout the day to prevent pangs of hunger.

Here are some cardiac diet snack ideas that you can try:

  • A handful of mixed, unsalted nuts.
  • A hummus dip with raw carrots, celery, or peppers.
  • Mashed banana spread on a slice of wholegrain bread topped with some peanut butter.
  • Plain yogurt with some chopped berries, walnuts, and 1 teaspoon of raw, organic honey.

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