Eating For a Healthy Heart: Health Fact Sheet

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a collective term for the conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels.The most common one is atherosclerosis which is a hardening of the arteries. CVD is one of the emerging problems in India.

Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries caused by a build-up of fatty materials (fats and cholesterol) in the blood vessel walls. This makes the blood vessels less elastic and reduces the blood flow to vital organs. If a blockage occurs, stopping the flow of oxygen containing blood to the organs, a heart attack or stroke can occur.

There are many factors associated with the development of CVD, some of which we can change. Factors you can change are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, poor diet, diabetes,insufficient activity, depression and excessive alcohol intake. The factors you can’t change are family history or genes, age and gender.

Your diet can affect your heart health:

A hypo caloric diet (diet which is low in cholesterol and saturated fat) with adequate intake of minerals and vitamins is recommended.


Saturated and trans fats can increase blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega 3 and omega 6) fats help lower cholesterol levels. For heart health, reduce saturated fats( butter, milk fat, red meat, hydrogenated oils) and substitute them with unsaturated fats in your diet ( vegetable oils, fish oils,olive oil)

Healthy heart tips:

  • Use margarines made from poly and monounsaturated oils instead of butter
  • Remove the fat and skin off chicken and meat, avoid processed meats
  • Include egg white, low fat fish in your diet. Choose lower fat dairy products like NESTLÉ SLIM Milk and NESTLÉ SLIM Dahi and low fat cheese
  • Avoid fat laden snacks such as pastries and biscuits

Energy Balance

Consuming more calories than you burn through activity leads to weight gain. For heart health, keep your weight in the healthy weight range by choosing foods low in calories and high in nutrients.

Healthy heart tip:

  • Eat less foods high in fat and sugar and reduce the portion size of your meals - include regular activity, but consult your doctor before starting an exercise program


The intake of protein recommended  for a normal diet is 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, you should avoid animal protein and use more of vegetable protein as they are low in fat and also contain soluble fibre which lowers serum cholesterol.


There is clear evidence linking high salt intake with increased blood pressure. High blood pressure increases stress on the heart. If you have high blood pressure, have your blood pressure monitored regularly and limit the amount of salt that you eat.

Healthy heart tips:

  • Don’t add salt to cooking and don’t put the salt shaker on the table
  • Improve the flavour of food by using lemon juice, fresh herbs or spices in place of salt
  • Choose unsalted nuts or unsalted popcorn


Soluble fibre helps maintain healthy blood fat levels by helping reduce cholesterol absorption. For heart health, choose complex carbohydrates like wholegrain cereals, especially oats and barley, fruits and vegetables such as legumes.

Healthy heart tips:

  • Start the day with wholegrain cereal, oats or baked beans on wholegrain toast
  • Avoid snacks made with refined flour and include wholegrain cereals like multi-grain/wholegrain flour when having carbohydrates
  • Include legumes by adding sprouts to sandwiches, or adding mixed beans/sprouts to salads


Foods high in antioxidants can reduce the risk of developing heart diseases. Antioxidants are known to help prevent the build-up of the fatty deposits in the arteries.

For heart health, enjoy a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and antioxidant containing drinks like tea, coffee and cocoa.

Healthy heart tips:

  • Relax with a cup of green tea
  • Snack on fruit and at meal times fill half your plate with vegetables or salad
  • Top up the desserts (low fat) with foods like blueberries and blackberries

To sum up, a checklist of common foods to be eaten and avoided:

Foods to be avoided:

  • Animal foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol such as eggs, organ meats, red  meats, whole milk, cream, butter, ghee,  and cheese
  • Foods high in sugar such as sweets, rich cakes, desserts, burfis, ladoos etc
  • Alcohol in excess

Foods to be used freely:

  • Green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, lemon
  • Clear soups, chaas, green chutneys, sour pickles without oil, vinegar etc