Cardiac Diet and Its Role in Health and Disease

Advances in medical science have added greatly to our knowledge of the role of nutrition in health and in the treatment of disease. Unfortunately, many unqualified people offer dietary advice, and it is difficult for the layman to sift out the reliable information.

Cardiac Diet and Its Role in Health and Disease

The most commonly prescribed diets are for overweight patients or for patients with heart disease. Any special diet should be followed only with the approval of your doctor. The overweight person has been consuming more calories than he has been using. The excess calories are stored as body fat.

The only way to reduce these fat stores is by reducing the calorie intake to a level below the calorie output. This can be done by:

  1. Reducing the calories consumed in food and drink.
  2. Increasing physical exercise and so increasing caloric output.
  3. A combination of 1 and 2.

Unless your doctor has recommended a rapid weight reduction, it is best to aim at a moderate but steady loss of one to three pounds weekly. Sudden fluctuation in weight is detrimental to health, and for this reason alone rigid regimens such as fluid diets should be avoided.

Any reduction diet like the cardiac diet should provide good nutrition, and this can be ensured only if foods from the following groups are included daily:

  1. Milk or cheese.
  2. Meal or eggs.
  3. Fruit and vegetables.
  4. Bread or cereals.

A diet which excludes any one of these groups is likely to be deficient. For example, a diet excluding milk or cheese will be deficient in the mineral calcium and the vitamin riboflavin.

For weight-reduction

The following foods should form the basis of your weight-reduction diet each day:

  • Milk: ½ pint for adults, 1 to 1½ pints for children and adolescents. ( 1 ounce of cheese is equivalent to 6 oz milk.)
  • Meat: 1 average portion prepared without extra fat or thickening.
  • Eggs: 1, or an extra portion of meat.
  • Fruit: 1 piece. Include any one of the following regularly for vitamin C: Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mandarins, pineapple, papaya, muskmelon, tomatoes.
  • Vegetables: 2 serves. Include carrots and green leafy vegetables regularly.
  • Bread: 3 slices. Brown and whole grain breads provide extra vitamin B. 1 slice bread may be substituted by ½ cup breakfast cereal.

These quantities of the basic foods provide about 800 calories a day and most people can achieve satisfactory weight losses on diets providing 1200 to 1800 calories, according to their physical activity.

You may prefer to take more of the foods listed, or to add other foods such as butter, table margarine, vegetable oil, potatoes, cereals, etc., until you find the diet which suits you best.

The calorie table will guide you in adjusting your food intake. These figures show clearly that sugars, fats, and alcoholic beverages provide concentrated sources of calories, and these are the foods which need to be avoided or restricted in a weight-reducing diet.

Fortunately, the restriction of these foods need not affect the protective nutrients such as protein, minerals, and vitamins provided by this diet.

For cardiac patients

For patients suffering from heart disease, weight control is of great importance, but in some cases the doctor may also advise the patient to reduce the amount of salt in the diet or to alter the type of fat consumed.

Salt is sodium chloride, and it is the sodium which needs to be restricted in the low salt diet. In some patients suffering from heart or kidney conditions, the sodium causes excess fluid to be retained in the body. The degree of restriction of sodium necessary will vary from one individual to another, and your doctor will advise you about this.

Other compounds, such as bicarbonate of soda and baking-powder, also contain sodium, and these should be avoided. The following foods should be included in the low salt diet each day:

  • Milk: ½ pint.
  • Meat: 1 average serve of unsalted varieties prepared without the addition of salted fats or salted gravies and sauces. Fresh fish, poultry, and rabbit are also suitable.
  • Egg: 1 serve.
  • Fruit: 2 serves.
  • Vegetables: 2 or 3 serves.
  • Prepare without salt or bicarbonate of soda.
  • Potatoes: 1 serve.
  • Cereals: Porridge prepared without salt. There are also a few varieties of pre-cooked breakfast cereals prepared without salt.
  • Bread: 3 slices. If you are on a strict salt-free diet, unsalted breads are available.
  • Butter: ½ to 1 oz. Unsalted butter is readily available.

Vegetable salts are based on salt itself and are not suitable for inclusion.

The following flavorings contain insignificant amounts of sodium and these may be used to improve the palatability of the low-salt diet.

  • Almond extract.
  • Mustard, dry.
  • Bayleaf.
  • Nutmeg.
  • Caraway seeds.
  • Onion.
  • Chives.
  • Orange peel.
  • Cinnamon.
  • Paprika.
  • Cloves.
  • Parsley.
  • Curry.
  • Pepper, red or green.
  • Dill.
  • Peppermint.
  • Ginger.
  • Pimento.
  • Herb seasoning.
  • Rosemary.
  • Leeks.
  • Saccharin.
  • Lemon essence.
  • Sage.
  • Lemon juice.
  • Thyme.
  • Lemon peel.
  • Vanilla extract.
  • Mace.
  • Vinegar.
  • Mint.
  • Wines.

If your weight is satisfactory, the following foods may be eaten in addition to those listed: an extra serve of meat; spaghetti or macaroni prepared without salt; tapioca, rice, sago; cooking oils, extra unsalted butter; fruit – fresh, canned, stewed, frozen, or dried.

If you are not overweight, the following may be added to your diet: Breakfast cereals, sago, tapioca, rice, dried peas and beans, spaghetti, dried fruit, sugar, honey, syrup, jam, or extra fruit, potatoes, vegetables, or bread. If your diet allows butter, no more than ½ to 1 oz daily should be taken.

Some patients will be advised to include vegetable oils or “unsaturated” fats. In these cases corn or maize oil, sunflower seed, and safflower seed oils may be used for frying, baking, and recipes can be obtained for cakes and biscuits using these oils instead of solid fats.

These oils are not suitable for overweight patients, as they provide slightly more calories, weight for weight, than the solid fats such as lard, dripping, butter, and margarine. The modern methods of baking meats and other foods wrapped in foil make possible the roasting of food without the addition of fat.

For building-up

Diets for building-up after illness need to be considered individually. Factors such as weight changes, muscle wastage, drop in blood counts, and digestive upsets must be looked at.

If there has been muscle wasting, amounts of protein foods (milk, cheese, meat, and eggs) should be increased. To ensure that this protein will be available for body-building, and not used as a source of fuel, adequate calories should be provided by starches, sugars, and fats.

Protein is also important in the building-up of red blood cells, but as well as protein, iron and vitamin C are key nutrients in blood-building.

Iron is supplied by meat, eggs, and green leafy vegetables, and vitamin C by fruits and vegetables.


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