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Patient Education & Resources

Diet and Nutrition

Diet is a controllable risk factor for heart disease. It is important to make wise food choices a permanent part of a healthy lifestyle. Fad diets have a poor long-term success rate. We recommend that you follow Canada’s Food Guide.

Canada’s Food Guide
  • 5-12 whole grain product servings per day
  • 5-10 vegetable and fruit servings per day
  • 2-4 low-fat milk product servings per day
  • 2-3 meat or meat alternatives servings per day
  • 3-6 teaspoons or less per day of oil, mayo, margarine, salad dressing, or other fat
Saturated Fat

Saturated Fats raise the blood level of LDL (bad cholesterol) and need to be limited in a heart healthy diet. Saturated fat is found in three places:

  • Animal Products: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, butter, creams, cheese
  • Tropical Oils: palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Fats: shortening, hard margarines
Unsaturated Fat

Although all fats are high in calories they are not all bad for your heart. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats can reduce cholesterol levels. They are found in vegetable oils, nuts and fish.

Trans fat

Artificially produced, by pumping hydrogen into vegetable oil at high heat, trans fat help to prolong the shelf life of processed food. They are typically found in pre-packaged foods, crackers, cookies, some snack foods, some margarine and processed peanut butter. They are doubly bad for you in that they raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol).

Recommended daily fat intake:
  • 20-40 grams/day for women
  • 30-50 grams/day for men
Milk Products
Good milk serving choices:
  • low fat cheese (3”x1”x1” or 50 gms)
  • yogurt (3/4 cup or 175 grams)
  • low fat ice milk products (3/4 cup)
  • skim or 1% milk
  • aim for milk fat or butter fat (M.F., B.F.) less than 1% with milks and yogurts
  • less than 15% with cheese
  • avoid creams (half & half, whipping, sour) and non-dairy creamers

Fish is high in protein, lower in saturated fat than fatty meat products and contain heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the "stickiness" of the blood so you're less likely to develop clots. Eating fish, particularly fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and albacore tuna), twice a week is recommended. The benefits of eating fish out weigh the potential risk from contaminants such as methylmercury.

Omega-3 fats are also found in omega-3 eggs, flax and canola and soybean oil. Flax is also a good source of fibre and can be easily added to cereals, yogurt, muffins and bread.

Fruits and Vegetables
  • many contain sugar so limit to 1-2 servings fresh fruit per day
  • one medium sized piece of fruit = 1 serving
  • contain key vitamins and minerals
  • adds fiber to your diet
  • eat a variety of colour and eat as snacks
  • considered low-fat, except for avocados, coconut and olives

A diet that is low in saturated fat and high in fiber (30gms per day) has been shown to decrease LDL (bad cholesterol). Fiber can be found in:

  • Grains: oats, wheat, corn, rice, barley, products made from grain (choose whole grains and not refined white flours)
  • Legumes: dried peas, lentils (red and white kidney beans, chick peas)
  • Fruits and Vegetables: fresh, frozen and canned fruits and veggies (not fruit juices)

When increasing the fiber in your diet do it slowly to reduce abdominal discomfort and drink plenty of water (8 glasses/day).

B vitamin

Controversy exists regarding the positive effects of B vitamins, namely vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid on heart disease. Recent studies suggest that supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 will not decrease your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke.


Research supports the inclusion of nuts in a heart healthy diet because most nuts contain “good” fat and are high in fibre. Walnuts and almonds are particularly good choices. Serving size should be limited to the amount of nuts that can fit in the palm of your hand, as they are high in calories.

Healthy diet, regular exercise, being smoke-free and monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels all lead to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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