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What to Know About Diet for Coronary Artery Disease

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on October 21, 2021

photo of mediterranean dietCoronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by a buildup in your arteries of fatty substances like cholesterol. Sticking to a diet that lowers LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol can help you manage symptoms of CAD and may slow the progression of the disease. 

Foods that are high in soluble fiber and low in saturated and trans fats are excellent choices. Oats, nuts, beans, fatty fish, and olive and canola oils are all foods that are good for your heart. 

Here are some heart health tips for achieving the right balance in your diet:

  • Eat whole-grain bread and cereal with some fruit for breakfast.
  • Add a salad or a handful of vegetables to your plate if you plan on eating meat or poultry as the main dish.
  • For dessert, serve low-fat yogurt or cheese with raw or cooked fruit.
  • Drink fat-free or 1% milk.
  • Try meat substitutes like veggie-soy burgers or tofu.
  • Several studies show that people with CAD benefit from eating fish and cooking with garlic. These foods reduce LDL cholesterol levels and help lower your blood pressure.
  • Avoid consuming too much sugar or salt. Sugar can increase your chances of having diabetes, while salt can raise your blood pressure. Both contribute to an increased chance of developing CAD.

Fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat yogurt are all part of a heart-healthy diet. Monounsaturated fat from nuts, avocados, and olives can also keep your heart in good shape.

How much you eat is just as important as what you’re eating. Avoid overloading your plate or continuing to eat after you feel full. Using a small bowl or plate can help you control your portion size. The recommended number of servings you should eat will depend on the food group and specific diet for CAD that you're following.

What Foods Should I Avoid With Coronary Artery Disease?

It can be challenging to get used to healthy eating after years of taking in high amounts of salt, sugar, refined carbs, and saturated fat. If you're concerned about your heart's health, foods to avoid with CAD include:

  • Whole milk
  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Fatty sausage
  • Biscuits
  • Cream
  • Fried food
  • Food cooked in butter, cheese, or cream sauce
  • Processed food
  • Egg yolks or whole eggs
  • Ice cream
  • Organ meats

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Photo Credit: IGphotography / Getty Images

Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: “Coronary Artery Disease.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “For heart health, less salt makes the most sense.”

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “Beyond Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol: Defining the Role of Low-Density Lipoprotein Heterogeneity in Coronary Artery Disease.”

Mayo Clinic: “Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease.”

Shah, P.K. Risk Factors in Coronary Artery Disease, Taylor & Francis, 2006.

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