Foods for a healthy heart

January 18, 2016

Although cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of death among the world’s population in recent years, it’s possible to prevent it simply by eating the right foods in accordance with the principles of nutrition. This issue of Better Health offers guidance on nutrition for heart health and treatment from Bumrungrad International Hospital’s dietitian team.

Healthy principles for a healthy heart

  • Avoid foods with high fat content, especially foods with saturated fats, trans fats, and high cholesterol.

Foods to avoid

Foods to eat

Foods with high cholesterol such as egg yolk, certain animal organs, certain types of seafood, whole milk, ice cream, cheese, butter, animal fat, etc.

Lean meats

Saturated fats (eat no more than

10% or less for your daily energy

needs) such as meat products, foods

containing animal fats (sausage,

Chinese sausage), animal fat (lard),

coconut oil, and palm oil.

Fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon,

sardines, etc. (recommended at

least two times a week, as fish oil can

reduce triglyceride levels in the blood

and help prevent heart disease).

Foods containing trans fats (artificial

fats created by adding hydrogen and

vegetable oil to make it into a solid).

These fats are often found in non-dairy

creamer, margarine, shortening, crisps,

cakes, cookies, and fried foods from

reused frying oil.

Vegetable oil (only small amounts)

such as soybean oil, sunflower oil,

sesame oil, corn oil, safflower oil, olive

oil, canola oil, peanut oil, etc.

  • Limit sodium intake by avoiding salty foods. Foods with too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Patients with heart disease should limit their sodium intake to no more than 3,000 milligrams per day (1 teaspoon of salt = 2,000 milligrams of sodium) and should not add extra salt to their food. Instead, you can add spices such as lemon grass, pepper, kaffir lime leaves, or lime juice to enhance food flavor.
  • Increase dietary fiber by eating more vegetables, fruits, dried beans, rice, and various whole grains. The body needs at least 25 grams of dietary fiber per day. Fiber comprises of two types:
    • Soluble dietary fiber found in grains such as oat, bran, dried beans, vegetables, and fruits. This fiber helps reduce cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
    • Insoluble dietary fiber found in grains and whole grain bread such as coarse rice, brown rice, whole wheat bread, nuts, and certain kinds of vegetables and fruits. This type of fiber absorbs water to help the intestines and digestive system work efficiently.
  • Eating a variety of foods will help you get both kinds of fibers.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol and sweetened beverages such as those which increase the level of triglycerides and excessive energy in the blood. Keep consumption to fewer than two standard glasses a day (one standard glass = 285 ml. of beer, 120 ml. of wine).
  • Limit caffeinated beverages such as tea or coffee to no more than 2 to 3 cups a day.
  • Eat foods containing antioxidants to protect the heart and prevent heart diseases. Food sources containing antioxidants include:

Vitamin A (carotene)

Vitamin E

Vitamin C

Carrots, apricots, pumpkins, mangoes, amaranth, spinach,

cantaloupes, peaches, broccoli,

water spinach

Soybean oil, safflower oil,

sunflower oil, almonds,

wheat germ

Tangerines, tomatoes,

oranges, guavas, kiwis,

pomelos, bean sprouts,

cabbage, broccoli, chilli,


Tips for dining out

When dining out, those with heart disease should choose only heart-healthy foods:

  • Avoid deep-fried foods. Instead, choose boiled, roasted, baked, and steamed foods, such as baked fish, grilled skinless chicken, and stir- fried vegetables. Request no added salt.
  • Avoid fatty foods, such as pork ribs, sausages, and desserts containing coconut milk and cream.
  • Eat fruit instead of sweets. For dessert, choose the less sweet options without egg yolk, milk, butter, or coconut milk. Enjoy jelly, fruit salad, green beans in syrup, etc., but only in moderation.
  • Drink only water, soda water, fresh fruit juice, and low-fat milk.
  • Ask the waiter about the ingredients used in your order. If a desired dish has certain ingredients you want to avoid, ask to substitute or not add that particular ingredient. For example, chicken fried rice without the egg yolk, or fish ball noodle soup without the fried garlic oil.

What are the sources of salt in your food?

  • 25% comes from natural foods, for example, 100 grams of onions have 11 milligrams of sodium.
  • 50% comes from instant foods, such as seasoning cubes for soups, ready-to-eat meat products such as sausages, Chinese sausage, and bacon.
  • 25% comes from flavoring foods, such as adding salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce.


Did you know?


The best way to get the maximum antioxidant effect from garlic is to eat about five fresh cloves a day. Peel and air them out for a while before eating. Garlic prepared in this manner can help diminish the risk of developing heart disease.


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