An Introduction to the Healthy Heart Diet
When we talk about the cardiac diet, we aren’t talking about your typical restrictive diet or fast.
The cardiac diet is the name given to any heart-healthy diet that isn’t restrictively tailored to a specific list of recipes and meal options.
There are a lot of foods that are good for a cardiac diet and there are a lot of foods that should be avoided, so it could be difficult to enjoy it as much as your typical eating habits.
The good news though, is that a cardiac diet isn’t just useful for keeping your heart healthy.
When you’re eating the best foods to look after your heart and cutting out the stuff that’s bad for it, you’ll definitely lose weight in the process.
Some people who don’t have great eating habits, to begin with, might actually find their habits improve after starting this diet.
This is because the useful benefits of eating well include feeling more awake, more energy and a better sense of wellbeing.
Welcome to Healthy Heart 101
The cardiac diet is great for vastly improving your cardiac wellbeing for one main reason; the condition of the heart is an indicator for the rest of someone’s wellbeing.
If two people were to have a heart scan after one following the cardiac diet and the other following unhealthy eating habits, it stands to reason that the person following the cardiac diet is more likely to have a healthy heart (and therefore body) than the unhealthy eater.
There are foods that can help you lose weight while being kind to your heart including fruits, vegetables, soluble fibre and omega-3.
You’ll also want to ensure you’re getting enough protein to make sure your muscles are getting what they need to be able to repair.
Fruits and Veg
When it comes to deciding what the best fruit and vegetables are to have in your cardiac diet it can be difficult, especially if you’re not already eating fruit and veg regularly.
Carrots, asparagus, tomatoes and peppers (bell varieties) are all good choices for getting nutrition from fruit and veg and will give you an absolute nutritional benefit.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, green veg like spinach, lettuce, broccoli, sprouts and peas are all great for your diet.
The best thing about all of these green veggies is that they have more benefits than just aiding weight loss and increased heart health.
A prime example is spinach. Spinach has an abundance of beta-carotene. This compound is used by the body to regenerate and grow new body tissue.
For heart health soluble fibre is probably underrated, but for weight loss, it’s definitely underrated.
When we think of soluble fibre, we think of an essential nutrient for healthy digestion, but it’s been shown that those who eat fibre in their diets tend to eat less food and therefore reduce their caloric intake.
This is certainly beneficial if your problem with dieting isn’t so much choice of food as it is the quantity of food that you eat.
The best soluble fibre you can add to your diet is in the form of oats for breakfast (porridge) and beans for other meals.
Baked beans are definitely useful for digestion, but the added benefit of the soluble fibre is it means you’re less likely to start snacking before dinner if you have them at lunchtime.
A fatty acid that is definitely great for heart health. The importance of omega-3 in weight loss is almost unheard of however, with people thinking that the benefits of this wonderful acid are solely for the heart and brain.
Another added benefit for weight loss is the increase in the metabolic rate that accompanies an increase in the amount of omega-3 consumed on a daily basis.
Along with the ability to reduce blood pressure, omega-3 is able to vastly decrease the rate of growth of plaque in arteries which is one of many reasons why whether your heart is in a bad way or the best state of your life, this is a great diet for weight loss.
The best foods to increase your intake of omega-3 include:
Salmon – A mainstay among restaurants for seafood options as it’s nutritious, won’t break the bank and when pan-fried with the skin down it tastes absolutely phenomenal.
If it doesn’t taste as good as you think it should try squeezing a lemon over it and adding a good amount of sea salt.
Tuna – Another brilliant fish, tuna contains omega-3 and mercury.
You’ll find more omega-3 in fresh tuna than you will tinned tuna but either option is beneficial to add to your diet (unless you’re pregnant, mercury and pregnancy don’t mix).
Herring – Herring isn’t typically prepared to eat in the same way that most fish are.
The two ways it’s usually prepared include smoking and pickling.
Typically a staple of Nordic countries, herring is also used for the manufacture of fish oil (useful)
Sardines – Very salty, but delicious in a homemade tomato sauce. Omega-3 is plentiful in this fish, especially when you compare it to others gram-for-gram.
Walnuts – A much better option for those that are allergic to seafood.
Walnuts contain omega-3 and other essential fats, making it a very desirable snack for nut lovers.
Regardless of why you need to go on the cardiac diet, the best way to get the most out of this diet is to exercise.
Exercise helps to burn calories, build up muscles and to melt fat.
Building muscles is always useful, simply because a commonly known scientific fact is that there is a directly proportional link between the amount of muscle mass you have and your metabolic rate.
With an increased metabolic rate, you’ll burn more calories while you’re at rest, so if you exercise to keep building on your muscle mass and muscle tone, your body will eventually start consuming your fat deposits to sustain that muscle without atrophy.
In order to keep making consistent gains in the muscle mass and tone departments, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough protein in your diet.
The best way to get good a good amount of protein in your diet without adding a lot of fat to your diet is eggs. Boiled, fried, scrambled or as an omelette, eggs are your best friend for good protein.
What to Avoid
There are things to avoid when you’re undertaking the cardiac diet and, incidentally, what you need to avoid will also make you gain weight if you indulge enough.
Unlike with the foods mentioned above, the stuff you need to avoid only needs to be indulged in a little bit to ruin a lot of the progress you’ve already made on your weight loss journey.
Trans Fat and Saturated Fats
When we think of our favourite fatty foods, it makes most of us salivate at the thought of the flavours hitting our tongue once again.
The power fatty foods can have over us can make our weight loss journey much harder to stick to.
Sat fats are one of two nutrients that we tend to enjoy the most but are very bad for causing weight gain and heart problems.
Salt is a truly wonderful seasoning with thousands of types, each with their own unique flavour.
That said, salt is also very bad in large quantities over a prolonged period of time. When it comes to salt we tend to overindulge when we have fried foods, but we tend to get a lot from processed foods we eat as well.
We hold on to extra water when we eat too much salt, meaning increased blood pressure and when done for long enough, increased water weight.
Try and keep to 6g salt per day. A dietary trick to take note of is that 1g sodium is equivalent to 2.5g salt.
This means when sodium is listed on the packet, you need to calculate the salt content by doing the sodium * 2.5 = salt conversion.
A sweet tooth can be the absolute bane of any diet. Everybody has at least one kind of junk food that they love, it’s a sad fact of life by this point.
For decades, manufacturers of sweets, chocolates and candies have spent large sums of money on designing treats that everyone will like so they can sell them and see large returns on their investments.
This sadly means that we grow up eating all of these sweet treats and they all contain sugar.
Sugar is okay in very small quantities like those found naturally in fruit (fructose).
The worst sugar to look out for is called sucrose and is also known in craftily created adverts as “added sugar”.
Sucrose is what is added to make things a lot sweeter in places where corn syrup isn’t available. Too much sugar increases the risk of diabetes, heart problems and weight gain.
If you’re looking to lose weight then it’s definitely advisable to stay away from sweet treats.
Protein and muscle growth – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11255140
Omega-3 and weight loss – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257626/
Sugar and obesity – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26376619
Saturated Fat and Obesity – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20934605
Soluble Fibre and weight-loss – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073249/