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Heart Disease Health Center

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Helping Loved Ones With Heart Disease Eat Right

WebMD Medical Reference

For someone with heart disease, diet is a big deal. Along with other healthy habits, it can slow or even partially reverse the narrowing of the heart's arteries and help prevent further complications.

You can help a loved one who has heart disease by adopting a diet that curbs LDL (''bad'') cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, and helps with weight loss.

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The best strategy: Focus on what the person with heart disease can eat, not just what's off-limits. Research shows that adding heart-saving foods is just as important as cutting back on others.

These nine strategies will help you plan meals for someone with heart disease:

1. Serve more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Just about everyone could stand to eat more plant-based foods. They're rich in fiber and other nutrients, and they can taste great in a salad, as a side dish, or as an entree. Watch that you don't use too much fat or cheese when you prepare them.

2. Choose fat calories wisely by:

  • Limit saturated fat (found in animal products).
  • Avoid artificial trans fats as much as possible. Check ingredient lists for "partially hydrogenated" oils.
  • When using added fats for cooking or baking, choose oils that are high in monounsaturated fat (for example, olive and peanut oil) or polyunsaturated fat (such as soybean, corn, and sunflower oils).

3. Serve a variety of protein-rich foods. Balance meals with lean meat, fish, and vegetable sources of protein.

4. Limit cholesterol.Cholesterol in foods, found in red meat and high-fat dairy products, can raise bloodcholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people.

5. Serve the right kind of carbs. Include foods like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and sweet potatoes to add fiber and help control blood sugar levels. Avoid sugary foods.

6. Eat regularly. This helps someone with heart disease control blood sugar, burn fat more efficiently, and regulate cholesterol levels.

7. Cut back on salt. Too much salt is bad for blood pressure. Instead, use herbs, spices, or condiments to flavor foods.

8. Encourage hydration. Staying hydrated makes you feel energetic and eat less. Encourage your loved one to drink 32 to 64 ounces (about 1 to 2 liters) of water daily, unless their doctor has told them to limit fluids.

9. Keep serving sizes in check. It can help to use smaller plates and glasses, and to check food labels to see how much is in a serving, since it's easy to eat more than you think. Some guidelines:

  • 1 ounce of cheese is the size of a pair of dice.
  • A serving of meat or tofu is the size of a deck of cards.
  • 2 servings of rice or pasta are the size of a tennis ball.

Reviewed on January 29, 2015
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