Food Pyramid

Diet Recommendations For Heart Health

To keep your heart healthy, one should adopt a healthy lifestyle. Do not smoke. Do not drink or limit alcohol. Have regular physical activities and keep a cheerful state of mind. Apart from that, eat a healthy diet and maintain an optimal body weight are also important. A healthy eating habit includes following a balanced diet and beware of foods that can affect heart health.

A Balanced Diet

Having a balanced diet means to eat according to the recommendations of the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid. Grains should make up the bulk of our daily diet, along with more vegetables and fruits. Eat moderate amount of meat, fish, eggs and alternatives such as dried beans, and milk and alternatives, such as calcium-fortified soy milk. Eat the least amount of foods that are high in fat/oil, sodium (salt) and sugar.

1. Eat More Vegetables and Fruits

  • Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre.
  • It is better to choose different colours and varieties of vegetables (e.g. Chinese flowering cabbage, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrot, eggplant, etc) and fruits (e.g. oranges, apples, papayas, kiwifruit, bananas, pitahayas, etc).

2. Choose More Fibre-rich Foods

  • Eating foods rich in soluble fibre helps to reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (often known as “bad cholesterol”) and prevent heart disease.
  • Rich sources of soluble fibre include vegetables, fruits, oatmeal, and dried beans such as soy beans and red beans.
  • Fruit juice is low in dietary fibre and should not be considered as a major source of fibre.

3. Choose Lean Meat, Dried Beans, and Eat More Fish

  • Choose lean meat and skinless poultry, and pick the non-deep-fried bean products.
  • Choose fishes that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and sole. However, avoid using high-fat cooking methods such as pan-frying and deep-frying and avoid high-fat sauces such as cream sauce and mayonnaise.

4. Limit the use of oil, salt and sugar when you cook

  • Adopt low-fat cooking methods, such as steaming, stewing, blanching, simmering, and baking. Use a non-stick pan or sauté with little oil to limit the amount of cooking oil used.
  • Cook with vegetable oils, such as canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil and cooking olive oil. Avoid using oils that are high in saturated fats such as lard, butter or chicken fat. Using a measuring spoon or oil kettle can help limit the amount of oil used.
  • Use natural seasonings such as ginger, green onion and garlic to cut down the amount of sodium used, which can help control your blood pressure.
  • Limit the use of sauces and condiments that are high in sugar content (e.g. sweet and sour sauce and granulated sugar) to reduce sugar intake and prevent obesity.

Beware of Foods that can Affect Heart Health:

Foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and cholesterol will affect heart health. Excessive intake of these foods can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

1. Limit Foods that are High in Saturated Fat

  • Saturated fat is mainly found in foods of animal origin, for examples, fatty meat or meat with skin e.g. roast pork, belly meat, chicken wings and chicken feet, as well as whole fat dairy products.
  • In addition to animal fats such as lard and butter, certain foods of plant origin, such as coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter, are also high in saturated fats.

2. Limit Foods that Contain Trans Fat

  • Most trans fats are formed when liquid plant oils are turned into solid fats during a process called hydrogenation.
  • Many processed foods contain trans fats, such as French fries, potato chips, doughnuts, pastries, croissants, cakes, cream-filled biscuits and cookies.
  • In order to limit the intake of trans fat, read the nutrition labels on prepackaged foods (e.g. bread and biscuits) and choose the products lower in total fat and trans fat.

3. Limit Foods that are High in Sodium

  • Frequent consumption of foods that are high in sodium may cause high blood pressure. Therefore, choose more fresh foods and eat less preserved, canned or heavily seasoned foods, such as pickled mustard-greens and roots, fermented soy beans, salted fish, sausages and luncheon meat.
  • Use natural seasonings such as ginger, green onion, garlic, and pepper can help reduce the amount of sodium intake.

4. Limit Foods and Beverages that are High in Sugar

  • Excessive intake of sugary foods and beverages coupled with insufficient physical activities can lead to obesity and increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Reducing the intake of foods and beverages with added sugar, such as cakes, sweet biscuits and soft drinks, which can help maintain an optimal body weight.

Recommendations on Cholesterol Intake:

  • Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal foods such as egg yolk, dairy products, seafood, meats, and poultry. Although there is currently no recommendation on the limit of daily cholesterol intake owing to a lack of existing evidence, it is recommended to consume cholesterol as little as possible according to the US Institute of Medicine.
  • For the sake of heart health, foods high in cholesterol, such as offal (including those of seafood) e.g. pork lungs, beef tripe, goose liver, fish head and fish roe, should be consumed as little as possible.
  • Foods simultaneously containing both high cholesterol and high saturated fats such as pork neck meat, pork belly ribs, bacons, and certain offal (e.g. pork intestine and ox tongue) should be avoided.
  • For healthy general public, certain foods high in cholesterol but relatively low in saturated fats such as eggs, prawn flesh and squids can be included as part of a balanced diet as long as these foods are consumed in moderation alternatively with other choices under the “Meat, Fish, Egg and Alternatives” food group.
  • Individuals with dyslipidemia, particularly those with diabetes or at high risk of heart failure, should

    seek professional advice from dietitians on cholesterol intake.

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