DID YOU KNOW...
About Cardiac Health Nutrition?
Understanding Cardiac Health Nutrition

By Elizabeth Langford

Whether you are trying to prevent a cardiac event, or are recovering from one, there are three very important aspects of your diet that you should consider.

1. LOW SATURATED FAT

WHY?

Diets high in saturated fat elevate cholesterol levels in the blood. When high levels are circulating in the blood, there is an opportunity for the lipids (fat) to be deposited on artery walls. Thus, arteries become clogged over time as fats are deposited there.

This narrowing of arteries leads to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and may cause cardiovascular heart disease and heart attacks or strokes.

HOW?

  • Use liquid vegetable oils instead of solid fats
  • Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Choose extra lean meats
  • Remove skin from poultry before eating
  • Select fat-free or low fat milk and dairy products
  • Choose low fat salad dressings and sauces

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acids that we must obtain through our diet. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids lower fat levels in the blood. This helps reduce the risk of death, heart attack, and strokes in individuals with cardiovascular disease. It also thins the blood, which may prevent the clogging of arteries (atherosclerosis).

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Type of Omega-3 Fat Food Source
ALA Flaxseed, walnuts, soybean and canola oils
DHA and EPA Mackerel, salmon, herring, trout, halibut, tuna and shellfish

2. LOW SODIUM

WHY?

Sodium attracts water, they bind together, and blood volume increases. This increase in blood volume pushes the blood against blood vessels, increasing pressure and making the heart work harder. This is commonly known as hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Over time, this constant stress on the heart can lead to cardiovascular disease or a cardiac event.

HOW?

  • Limit processed meats
  • Limit salty snacks like chips, nuts, and popcorn
  • Choose "low sodium" and "no salt added" foods
  • Do not add salt when preparing food
  • Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt

3. HIGH FIBER

WHY?

Soluble fibre is found in foods such as oat bran, legumes, vegetables, barley and fruits. Soluble fibre decreases total blood cholesterol levels and helps prevent diabetes.

Most Canadians only consume about half of the recommended amount of daily fibre intake. Recommended intake is 25g of fibre each day.

HOW?

  • Increase fibre intake by eating beans (legumes), whole-grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Increase the amount you eat gradually, and drink lots of fluids
Table 2: High Fibre Food Sources
Food Grams of Fibre per Serving
Navy beans, ½ cup 9.5
Bran cereal, ½ cup 8.8
Kidney beans, ½ cup 8.2
Lentils, ½ cup 7.8
Artichoke 6.5
Chickpeas, ½ cup 6.2
Sweet potato 4.8
Asian pear 4.4
Green peas, ½ cup 4.4
Pear 4.3
Raspberries, ½ cup 4.0
Spinach, ½ cup 3.5
Almonds, 1 oz 3.3

References:

  1. Mahan, L.K. and Escott-Stump, S. (2008). Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. 12th Ed. Elsevier B.V.
  2. Dietitians of Canada. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/resources/resourcesearch.asp?fn=view&contentid=5520&resource_resourcetype=FAQ(Frequently asked question)%20&resource_language=English
  3. Dietitians of Canada. (2007). Fibre Up! Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/resources/resourcesearch.asp?fn=view&contentid=8370&resource_resourcetype=Fact Sheet/Pamphlet &resource_language=English

The articles, on the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website, are presented with the understanding that the Foundation is providing information only and not rendering medical advice. Please check with your family physician, specialist or health care professional before implementing any of the ideas expressed in these articles.