The main guidelines for maintaining a
healthy diet are:
a regular balanced diet
to have five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
fibre - have more wholemeal and wholegrain foods
less fat and fatty foods
down on salt
added sugar and limit sugary foods
alcohol within recommended limits (21 units a week for men, 14 units a
week for women)
to take some form of exercise every day.
There is growing evidence that following
a 'cardioprotective diet' - that is, eating foods that protect the heart
- can reduce the risk of heart disease. A cardioprotective diet means people
Omega-3 - a type of oil found mainly in oily fish
fruit and vegetables
total fats, especially saturated fats. The type of fat eaten is also important
- more monounsaturated fats can help to reduce total cholesterol.
These are polyunsaturated fats, which
cannot be made in the body so must be provided in the diet.
The richest sources are fish oils such
as those found in salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and kippers.
They can be tinned (in brine or tomato sauce), frozen, vacuum packed, fresh
Other sources include seed oils (linseed,
rapeseed and soya oils) and nuts (walnuts and peanuts).
Omega-3 oils have been found to reduce
triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). They can help to thin out the
blood and so can protect against heart attacks and strokes. They also protect
against cardiac arrhythmias (irregular rhythms), which can cause sudden
Fish oil supplements are not recommended
for people with diabetes as they may increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
Aim to eat two portions of fish a week,
one of which should be oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, kippers, trout
or mackerel). One portion equals 100g or 3-4oz in weight.
Fruit and vegetables
The recommended amount of fruit and vegetables
is five servings daily. One serving equals:
medium portion of fruit
tablespoons of salad or vegetables
tablespoons of stewed or tinned fruit
small glass of fruit juice
small bowl of vegetable soup.
Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants
(vitamins A, C and E), which mop up dangerous free radicals, which are
known to damage artery walls.
Fruit and vegetables that contain soluble
fibre will also help to reduce cholesterol levels.
Remember all fruit and fruit juice contain
natural sugars so it best to spread them over the day.
Reducing fat in the diet will reduce total
calorie intake and help with weight loss. Fats are divided into two main
types - saturated and unsaturated.
Try to reduce saturated fats and replace
them with unsaturated fats.
Saturated fats increase blood cholesterol.
You can identify them as those fats that tend to be solid at room temperature.
They are found in butter, hard margarines, lard, cheese, cream, meat fat
Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated
and polyunsaturated fats. These fats have a favourable effect on blood
Monounsaturated fat can increase HDL cholesterol
levels (a good cholesterol). Good sources of monounsaturated fat include:
oil or rapeseed oil (Kelkin, Dunnes Stores or Tescos own brand of vegetable
made from these oils such as Golden Olive, Avonmore Light and Utterly Butterly.
Physical activity can also lead to an
increase in HDL levels.
Polyunsaturated fat can help to reduce
LDL cholesterol levels (a bad cholesterol). Good sources of polyunsaturated
corn or soya bean oil
made from these oils such as Flora and Low Low
fish also contain polyunsaturates, omega-3.
Try to use a source of monounsaturated
fat in cooking or as a spread and remember to include omega-3 oil from
oily fish. This is to ensure the best action on LDL and HDL cholesterol
Remember that all fats are high in calories
and should only be taken in small quantities. Excess amounts of fat can
lead to weight gain. And remember: a 'cardioprotective diet' reduces the
risk of heart disease.