A healthy diet can usually lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease and, as long as you exercise too, it’s likely to help you lose weight. That’s important, because you can increase your chances of diabetes and high blood pressure if you don't take care of yourself.
The trouble is, knowing the facts when it comes to what you're putting in your mouth can seem like a bit of a minefield. Here’s some handy advice that could help you look after your heart:
Food that’s good for your heart
Above all else, your diet should be balanced. Focus on getting a variety of natural, wholesome foods: fruit and veg, some starchy foods (preferably wholegrain varieties), low fat dairy products and sources of protein like meat, fish and beans. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Fresh, dried, frozen or tinned, just make sure what you’re eating varies.
Fats are not always bad for your heart
Contrary to what you might have heard, not all fat is bad. In fact, some fats are essential in keeping your heart healthy. It's all about choosing the right sort – there are two types: saturated and unsaturated, and the latter’s the one you should eat more of, if you can. Swapping out food like burgers or kebabs for things like oily fish can improve your cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of arterial diseases.
Stay low on salt
It’s essential for life, but cutting down on your salt intake can be beneficial to your heart, as too much can increase your risk of high blood pressure. In turn, that can lead to coronary heart disease. To find out if the food you are eating is high in salt, check its labelling.
As a guideline, the NHS says a food has high levels of salt if it contains 1.5g of salt - or 0.6g of sodium - per 100g. Processed foods are the culprits here; natural, wholesome food is usually lower in natural salts (and often higher in more healthy elements, like vitamins and minerals).