Looking after your Heart

Having a healthy balanced diet is important for keeping our heart and circulatory system strong and well. We explain some of the foods and nutrients that are particularly important to consider when you are looking after your heart.

What is Cholesterol?
Saturated fat
Mono and Polyunsaturated fats
Frequently asked questions

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat made in our bodies. It is essential for our bodies to function. When we eat a diet high in saturated fat, we can create too much of the wrong type of cholesterol.

There are two main types of cholesterol, good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. A high level of bad cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. Our diet can have an effect on the level of the different cholesterols in our blood.

Saturated fat

This type of fat is found in animal products, for example:

  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Butter

We should try to reduce the amount of this type of fat in our diet as it increases our bad cholesterol. 

Mono and Polyunsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are known as ‘good fats’. They can help us decrease our ‘bad’ cholesterol. Some can even help increase the ‘good’ cholesterol in our bodies.

Good sources of polyunsaturated fats:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower spread

Good sources of monounsaturated fats:

  • Olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Almonds

Frequently asked questions:

I heard I shouldn’t have too many eggs. Is this true?

It is true that eggs are high in cholesterol. But cholesterol in food doesn’t affect the levels in our bodies that much. It is saturated fat that can raise the levels of bad cholesterol. Unless a GP has advised you to limit your intake of eggs, you do not have to avoid them. Eggs are a great source of protein and B vitamins, and can be included as part of a healthy balanced diet.

What about salt?

Eating too much salt raises blood pressure which can damage your arteries. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet can be beneficial. Our meals are have been developed to reduce the amount of salt as much as possible. Instead, flavours have been enhanced with herbs and spices.

Is oily fish good for my heart?

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are a great source of omega 3 fats. This is a special kind of fat that has been found to be very good for the heart. Try having one portion of oily fish every week.

For vegetarians, walnuts and some of the healthy oils mentioned above are good sources.

Can fibre help?

Soluble fibre can help lower cholesterol. It is found in foods such as:

  • Oats
  • Fruit 
  • Vegetables

All our main meals contain at least one portion of vegetables, a great source of soluble fibre.

Is alcohol bad for the heart?

We should generally try to limit the amount of alcohol we have. The recommendation is 2–3 units a day for men, and 1–2 units for women, with 1–2 alcohol free days each week.

Looking after your Heart (PDF)

This resource has been compiled using available current evidence and has been approved by a team of dietitians and nutritionists. The information is for general use and should not replace individual tailored advice given by a healthcare professional.

For further information, please contact your local Support Team or contact our Nutrition & Wellbeing Team directly here.

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