Help Your Loved One With Heart Disease Eat Right

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 24, 2020

If you've got a family member or friend with heart disease, you can boost their health by helping them eat the right food.

A heart-healthy diet plays a key role in managing symptoms and preventing complications. They'll be able to cut their levels of total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar, and drop some pounds if they are overweight.

A lot of diets tell you what you CAN'T eat, but the most powerful nutrition strategy helps people with heart disease focus on what they CAN eat. Adding heart-saving foods is just as important as cutting back on others.

So before mealtime rolls around, look over these tips to give your loved one some tasty and healthy choices.

Menu Strategies

Serve more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. These foods may be some of the most powerful ways to fight heart disease.

Also, choose fat calories wisely. Keep these goals in mind:

  • Limit total fat grams to less than 25% to 35% of total calories.
  • Serve a bare minimum of saturated fats and trans fats, like those found in butter, salad dressing, sweets, and desserts.
  • Use items high in monounsaturated fat, such as those in olive and peanut oil. Or try polyunsaturated fat, such as soybean, corn, and sunflower oil.

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Serve a variety of heart-healthy protein by getting a balance of meat, fish, and vegetable sources. For protein from animal sources, lean choices like chicken or turkey are best.

Cut back on salt in their food. It will help your loved one control their blood pressure.

You may want to serve five to six mini-meals instead of three big ones. It can help them control blood sugar levels, burn fat calories more efficiently, and keep their cholesterol in check.

Also make sure they drink enough water. It will make them feel energetic and eat less. A goal is 32 to 64 ounces of water every day, unless their doctor is restricting their fluids.

How Much Is In a Serving?

When trying to make an eating plan that's good for the heart, it helps to know how much of a certain kind of food is considered a serving.

SERVING SIZES

Food/amount

Serving/exchange

The size of

1 cup cooked rice or pasta

2 starch

tennis ball

1 slice bread

1 starch

compact disc case

1 cup raw vegetables or fruit

1 fruit or vegetable

baseball

1/2 cup cooked vegetables or fruit

1 fruit or vegetable

cupcake wrapper full or size of ice cream scoop

1 ounce cheese

1 high-fat protein

pair of dice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 fat**

half-dollar

3 ounces cooked meat

1 protein

deck of cards or cassette tape

3 ounces tofu

1 protein

deck of cards or cassette tape

** Remember to count fat servings that may be added to food while cooking (oil for sauteing, butter or shortening for baking).

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WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

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

HeartHealthyWomen.org: "Heart Healthy Diet -- The Basics."

American Heart Association: "Managing Blood Pressure With a Heart Healthy Diet."

 

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