Foods to Eat When Recovering From Heart Attack
If you have suffered a heart attack, then on your path to recovery, your focus should be on eating a heart-healthy diet that is primarily made up of fish, whole grains, lean meats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, preferably fresh. All these foods are low in saturated fats and contain empty calories. You should also try to ensure that at least half of your plate is full of a variety of vegetables at each meal.
One of the best foods for your heart you can have at this time is fish, especially fatty fish. Picking the right type of fish is essential as only oily fish is considered to be best for the heart since it is rich in omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in decreasing cholesterol and also boosting vascular health. Try to get at least three to four servings of fish in a week.(1) Some of the best types of fish you can include are:
If you are looking at following a more structured diet plan, then you can consider following the Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet is focused on consuming legumes, healthy fats, fish, grains, and lots of fresh vegetables. Dairy products and meats can also be included, but only occasionally. The Mediterranean diet also focuses on consuming plant-based oils in place of butter. A good option is olive oil.(2)
As for what beverages you can have, your best bet is to stick with water only. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, you can try to jazz it up with a slice of lemon or cucumber. Or even add some berries to your water to get an all-natural flavor.
Before having coffee or tea, it is recommended that you ask your doctor whether caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea are appropriate to have for your heat. If you are having these beverages, it is better to have in moderation, without any added milk, sugar, or cream.
Foods to Avoid When Recovering From Heart Attack
You should ideally want to avoid excess salt, sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats. Here is a list of foods you should consider avoiding after having a heart attack:
- Boxed foods
- Fast food
- Fried food
- Ice cream
- Processed frozen meals
- Canned food (beans and vegetables are fine, but only as long there is no added salt in them)
- Cookies and cake
- Red meat (can be had in limited quantities)
- Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and packaged dressing
For a healthy heart, you should restrict your consumption of trans-fats and saturated fats. Trans-fats are found in hydrogenated oils.
According to recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA), saturated fat should not make up more than six percent of your total daily calorie intake.(3)
This can prove to be very critical if you also have high cholesterol levels. In order to keep your blood pressure under control, you should also restrict your daily intake of sodium to 1,500 mg or less.
Supplements Can Also Help When Recovering From Heart Attack
Many people wonder if supplements can be of use in their recovery after a heart attack. However, keep in mind that supplements should only be considered if you or your doctor feels like you are not getting sufficient nutrients from your diet. This is because of the fact that your body processes supplements in a different manner than food, so you are not going to absorb as many nutrients from these pills as you can from the actual foods.
Furthermore, if you are a vegetarian, then you might not be getting adequate iron or vitamin B12. Your doctor will likely check for these nutrients in your blood through a simple blood test. If these levels are found to be low, they will go ahead and recommend supplements. They may also recommend taking a fish oil supplement if you are not eating any fish.
At the same time, it is necessary to understand that some supplements can actually cause harm to your heart health. One of the biggest examples of this is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a form of vitamin A. According to studies done by the National Health Service (NHS), beta-carotene has been known to increase the chances of having another heart attack.(4)
This is why it is important to discuss your options with your doctor before you start taking any supplements.
Eating a healthy and nutritious diet is one of the best things you can do for recovering from your heart attack, and also for preventing another heart attack and prolonging your life. Always discuss with your doctor about ways in which you can eat better and consume foods that are right for your heart. You should also check with your doctor if you have any food allergies or sensitivities.
- Kris-Etherton, P.M., Harris, W.S. and Appel, L.J., 2002. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation, 106(21), pp.2747-2757.
- Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Covas, M.I., Corella, D., Arós, F., Gómez-Gracia, E., Ruiz-Gutiérrez, V., Fiol, M., Lapetra, J. and Lamuela-Raventos, R.M., 2013. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(14), pp.1279-1290.
- www.heart.org. (2019). The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. [online] Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].
- nhs.uk. (2019). Why should I change my diet after a heart attack?. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/food-and-diet/why-should-i-change-my-diet-after-a-heart-attack/ [Accessed 29 Aug. 2019].
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