How to eat well for a healthy heart

Pulses in the shape of a heart

Do you value your heart? Do you want to be active and be able to do all the things you want to?

Having a healthy heart is a vital part of keeping well.

As we get older we are more at risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This is true for men and women but the risks to women go up significantly after menopause because their hormones are no longer protecting them in the same way.

But it’s not just an issue for older adults

Looking after your heart when you are younger can reduce your risk of heart disease later on. AND it gets us into good habits which we can maintain.

So what can we do. I’m going to share 5 things to think about when it comes to a healthy heart. These are over an above a general balanced diet, reducing stress, not smoking and keeping active. If you don’t do these things, the foods I’m going to talk about below are not going to have as much of a positive effect.

Oily fish

Oily fish contain omega 3 fats which help to thin the blood and can therefore have a protective effect on our hearts. The recommendation is to have 2 portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. Girl and women before menopause shouldn’t have more than 2 portions of oily fish a week. A portion is 140g so check how much you are having as most of us don’t have 140g in portion. Oily fish include mackerel, salmon, trout, kippers and sardines. Fresh and frozen fish contain more omega 3 than tinned fish but tinned fish are still a good source (just beware of the added salt).


Beans, peas and lentils are a great source of fibre which has been shown to help protect our hearts. Not a fan? Try using them in combination with meat rather than replacing meat all together. Lentils work well in with mince in burritos, Bolognese or cottage pie. Concerned about the time they take to soak and cook? Tinned beans are a good option, rinse them before using them to help the absorption of the nutrients.


Keeping well hydrated helps keep our blood pressure in check. The thicker the blood the harder it is for our hearts to pump it round so our blood pressure goes up. Gradually increasing the amount of water we have in a day and getting our wee to be pale yellow is a great way to protect our hearts. Everyone is different in how much they need.


Soya has been shown to be protective for our hearts. Including soya milk (fortified and unsweetened), edamame beans, tofu or soya mince in the diet can be helpful particularly for those with high cholesterol. Like all the foods I’m talking about, it’s not a magic food but it can be a great addition to the diet.

Low salt

No I am not saying have a salt replacer product. This is all about using less salt. Salt can increase blood pressure. Avoid adding salt to pasta or rice or vegetables. Use herbs, spices, onion, garlic, ginger, lemon, lime or chilli to give flavour. And if you use a lot of salt, don’t cut it out straight away (unless you have been told to by a medical professional), reduce it gradually so you get used to the change. Trust me, it works.

The bottom line

A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, lean protein (including oily fish, nuts, seeds and pulses) and wholegrain carbohydrates is essential alongside the things I have mentioned above for a healthy heart. Our hearts aren’t the only part of us we need to look after so don’t forget the dairy/dairy alternatives for our bones too. And diet is just one piece of the puzzle, using medications prescribed for any heart conditions, reducing stress, stopping smoking, keeping alcohol to safe limits and being active are also vital.

Looking after our health is complex. If you would like more information, tailored to your needs, please get in touch or speak to your GP.

Disclaimer – this article is for information purposes and should not be used for individualised dietary advice. Please see your GP or a Registered Nutritionist or dietitian for further advice. It is important to continue to take any prescribed medication and it should not be stopped without speaking to your GP first.

Published by Aliya Porter

An experienced Registered Nutritionist helping you to live healthily without breaking the bank or chaining you to the kitchen.

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