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What to eat after a heart attack

Sunday, October 01, 2017

EATING healthy foods will help you recover and reduce your risk of another heart attack in the future.

Healthy eating is easier than you think. You can usually find all the foods you need at your local supermarket or market. You just need to know what foods to buy to make healthier meals. Eating a diet low in salt and saturated fat is important after you've had a heart attack.

Healthy in five! #HealthyEatingGoals

1. Eat vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts, and seeds every day.

2 Choose healthier fats and oils. Limit fried or baked foods, especially chips, biscuits, cakes and other baked products.

3. Aim for two to three servings of fish and seafood per week.

4. Avoid adding salt to food. Choose 'no added salt', 'low-salt' or 'salt-reduced' foods where possible.

5. Drink mainly water. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks.


So what should you eat after a heart attack?

1. Eat vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds every day.

• Eat plenty of vegetables (aim for five servings every day) and fresh fruit (aim for two servings every day).

• Include legumes in at least two meals a week (for example lentils, split peas, dried or canned beans like four bean mix, or baked beans). Choose whole grain types of breads, cereal, pasta, rice, and noodles.

2. Choose healthier fats and oils. Limit fried or baked foods.

• Select lean meat (meat trimmed of fat and poultry without skin). Limit processed meats, including sausages, and deli meats, such as salami.

• Choose reduced fat milk, yoghurt, cheese, or calcium alternatives.

• Choose healthier fats and oils for cooking, spreads, dressings, and mayonnaises. Some suitable choices include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive, sesame, and peanut oils.

• Limit fast foods (for example pastries, patties, pizza, fried fish, hamburgers).

3. Aim for two to three servings of fish and seafood per week.

• Have two to three servings (150 g) of fish and seafood every week (fresh, frozen or canned).

4. Restrict your salt intake to less than 1500mg/day.

• Limit salty, fatty and sugary snack foods (for example crisps, cakes, biscuits, and chocolate).

• Snack on plain, unsalted nuts.

5. Drink mainly water and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks. Choose caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea in moderation.

What types of fat should you eat?

It's important to change the types of fat you eat. Eating too much unhealthy saturated and trans-fats can increase high cholesterol. Choosing foods with healthier fats can help you lower your cholesterol and avoid more heart problems.

eat less unhealthy fats and more healthier fats

• Eat fewer bought cakes, biscuits and pastries. Limit take-away food like hamburgers, pizza and patties.

• Choose lean cuts of meat or trim all the fat you can see. Remove skin from chicken.

• Avoid processed meat (for example sausages, bacon and salami).

• Eat fish instead of meat two to three times a week, and choose legume or bean-based meals twice a week.

• Include nuts and seeds in your diet regularly.

• Choose reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt.

• When you're cooking or preparing food, use healthier oils like olive and canola, and margarine spreads and dressings made from them, instead of butter or palm oil.

What about coconut oil? There is new controversy about whether coconut oil is a healthy dietary fat since a new report from the American Heart Association (AHA) earlier this year. AHA is recommending the average man limits daily saturated fat intake to 30 grammes per day; 20 grammes for women. That's about the equivalent of two tablespoons of coconut oil for men and 1.33 tablespoons for women. Heart Smart Talk will go into more details about this topical issue in the upcoming issue.


Salt is hidden in lots of food. The amount of salt you eat should be less than 4g per day. That's less than a teaspoon. Salt holds fluid in your body. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. It's the sodium that can be bad for your health, and is listed on food packages.

Foods with high-salt levels include:

• commercially baked products like biscuits, pastries, pies and some breads;

• processed meat such as ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, tinned meat, corned meat, and pies;

• take-away foods, such as hamburgers, pizza, hot chips, noodles, potato chips, many Asian foods, pasta, and fried chicken;

• packaged foods such as tinned and instant soup, fish in brine and instant noodles

• condiments and sauces like packet seasoning, stock cubes, soy sauce and tomato sauce;

• snack foods like salted nuts, olives and dips.

How to reduce your salt intake

• Make fresh foods the main part of your diet — include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, plain meat, poultry and fish, reduced fat dairy, plain unsalted nuts and legumes.

• Choose foods normally processed without salt.

• Check the labels on food you buy for salt content. Choose 'no added salt', 'low salt' or 'salt-reduced' foods where possible.

• Aim for foods with less than 400 mg of sodium per 100 g. Foods with less than 120 mg of sodium per 100g are considered low in salt.

• Avoid adding salt during cooking and at the table. Instead use lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices to add flavour.

• Avoid high-salt packaged foods, salty snacks and salty take-away foods.

Drinking alcohol

Too much alcohol increases your risk of more heart problems. Drinking less alcohol can substantially lower your blood pressure. Too much drinking increases your risk of high blood pressure. It also increases your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and many other problems.


Dr Claudine Lewis is an adult cardiologist and medical director at Heart Smart Centre in Montego Bay. She is also a cardiologist at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, and an associate lecturer with the University of the West Indies. Questions may be sent to For additional information call 684-9989 or visit the website