A diet for the heart. What to eat to have a healthy heart?

Heart disease is now the leading cause of all deaths worldwide. In people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, in addition to pharmacotherapy, an important element of treatment is lifestyle change, including dietary habits. The use of an appropriate diet should be primarily an element of the prevention of diseases related to the cardiovascular system, and in the event of their occurrence, prevent serious complications.

Diet for the heart – what’s the best?

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is considered to be the best researched diet in terms of its effect on the cardiovascular system. The term Mediterranean diet describes the diet of people living in the regions of the Mediterranean Basin. Prehistoric Cypriots grew olives, pulses, almonds, figs, and also fished fish and shellfish. In Crete, several hundred years before Christ, olive oil was used. It was also discovered that wine had been consumed in various places in Greece from the third millennium BC. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet is not a specially developed diet, but a set of certain eating habits that are characteristic of certain groups, resulting from geographical, cultural, religious and historical conditions. Numerous scientific studies have shown that the inhabitants of the Mediterranean Basin live the longest and least suffer from cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.

What is the Mediterranean diet like?

This diet is characterized by:

High consumption of grain products (daily)
High consumption of vegetables and fruits (daily)
High intake of olive oil (daily) and low intake of saturated fat (several times a month)
High consumption of legume seeds and nuts (daily),
Average consumption of fish and seafood (several times a week)
Moderate consumption of alcohol (mainly wine),
Little consumption of red meat and meat products (several times a month).
In addition, the Mediterranean diet is characterized by the daily consumption of dairy products (approximately 2 servings / day) rich in calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D and riboflavin. The most common dairy products of choice are natural yoghurt and skim milk.

The protective properties for the heart of the Mediterranean diet result in particular from the abundance of plant-based products consumed, which are a source of dietary fiber, antioxidant vitamins, polyphenols and flavonoids. It is also worth mentioning that this nutrition model is characterized by a favorable ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids of 1: 2. The Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and the model of its nutrition can be used in Polish conditions through the use of appropriate products in the right proportions.

The DASH diet

The DASH (The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is recommended primarily for people with arterial hypertension. The problem of high blood pressure is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases, which include myocardial infarction, stroke and heart failure. Hypertension affects more and more people of various age groups.

The DASH diet is actually a modified Mediterranean diet. The difference concerns the inclusion of larger amounts of skim milk and its products into the menu. In addition, it places great emphasis on reducing the amount of sodium in the diet. Salt intake should be limited to a maximum of 5 grams per day, which is an average of one level teaspoon. It is worth remembering about the “hidden” salt in food products (vegetable spices with the addition of salt, canned food, processed cheese, feta type, cold cuts, smoked meats, chips, crackers and many others). It is crucial to limit the amount of salting in your dishes at the table. It is therefore beneficial to replace salt with spices: lovage, basil, oregano, dill, garlic, thyme or ginger.

Recommended portions of products in the DASH diet:

whole grain products (6-8 servings a day),
vegetables (4-5 servings a day),
fruit (4-5 servings a day),
lean dairy products (2-3 servings a day),
nuts, legume seeds (4-5 servings per week)
fish, poultry or eggs (no more than 2 servings a day),
sweets (no more than 5 servings a week),
healthy fats (2-3 servings a day).
According to various literature sources, eating according to the DASH diet reduces blood pressure by nearly 10 mmHg within 30 days of use.

What else is worth paying attention to in order to keep a healthy heart?

Type of fat
As part of the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, the type of fat consumed is more important than its amount in the total diet. Moreover, it is important not to avoid dietary fat, but to replace saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fatty acids. For the health of our heart, we should exclude such products from the diet as: butter, lard, lard, fatty meat, pates, sausages,


! It is estimated that replacing two glasses of fat milk with two glasses of skim milk would reduce the number of heart attacks by an average of 2 heart attacks / day in people under 70 years of age.

Animal fats should be replaced with vegetable fats. If frying is necessary, it should be done briefly, preferably with little or no fat (olive oil, rapeseed oil is the best choice).

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

Scientific research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Their beneficial effect on the heart consists primarily in lowering triglycerides, normalizing blood pressure, and having anticoagulant and anti-atherosclerotic effects. The group of omega-3 acids includes α-linolenic acid and the resulting eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. Α-linolenic acid is present in linseed, soybean and rapeseed oils, and EPA and DHA acids are present in fats of marine fish.

Do you know that…

The content of EPA and DHA and their mutual proportions in fish fat depend, among others, on from: the species of fish, the physiological condition of the fish, the season of the year, the catch basin. Moreover, fish from the cold northern seas contain more EPA, and those from the southern seas more DHA. In addition, wild fish have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids and lower omega-6 fatty acids compared to farmed fish.

Antioxidant vitamins and natural antioxidants

Antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin A, especially its provitamin β-carotene, and vitamins E and C, as well as other substances contained in fruits and vegetables, have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system. There are many chemical compounds in the world of plants that have antioxidant properties, mainly polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in the leaves, fruits and flowers of angiosperms. The most numerous group of them are flavonoids, including a group of plant substances diverse in terms of their chemical structure, such as: flavones, flavanones, flavonols, isoflavones, catechins and others. Thanks to their antioxidant properties, flavonoids catch and neutralize free radicals. They have found application as natural remedies in the treatment of various diseases. They have a positive effect on the circulatory system, increasing the concentration of HDL lipoprotein (good cholesterol) and protect the LDL fraction against oxidation. They are also used in the treatment of vascular thromboembolism, regulating the permeability of the vessels and improving blood circulation. The documented pharmacological properties of these compounds include the strengthening and sealing effect of blood vessel walls.

Dietary fiber

In rational nutrition, which is the basis for the prevention of atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, and diseases of the digestive system, dietary fiber takes the top place. Epidemiological studies clearly highlight an inverse relationship between dietary fiber consumption and the incidence of cardiovascular disease. By binding cholesterol and bile acids in the intestinal lumen, it contributes to the lowering of serum cholesterol levels. A high-fiber diet is a diet rich in grain products, especially coarse grain products, i.e. groats, flours, cereals and appropriate food products prepared on their basis, and also rich in vegetables, fruits, and legume seeds.


Probiotics have the ability to assimilate cholesterol and break down bile acids in the small intestine, thus preventing their reabsorption. As a result, part of the cholesterol is used to synthesize new fatty acids, which lowers its concentration in the blood and, at the same time, the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Examples of probiotic foods are yoghurts, kefirs, acidophilic milk, fermented juices, and vegetable and fruit drinks that contain live cultures of lactic acid bacteria.


The novelty is the recommendation on the consumption of nuts (approx. 30 g per day). It should be walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds. It is important that the nuts are neither salted nor, for example, in honey. The beneficial effect of eating nuts in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases is due to their ability to lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

In summary, in the light of current scientific knowledge, the inclusion of more plant products such as legumes, whole grains grains, vegetables and fruits and nuts reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also important to replace saturated fatty acids with essential omega-3, 6 and 9 unsaturated fatty acids.


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