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Many people fear a heart attack. Think of it as the last straw. In many cases, heart disease is an avoidable lifestyle disease; with the proper focus, you can avoid it, too.

There are some pretty big risk factors (outside of smoking and drinking in excess), including being diabetic, having high cholesterol and being overweight.

What I want to talk to you about today is which dietary changes you might start to make to protect your health and that of your loved ones. There’s fantastic news because several massive studies point to diet and lifestyle change being IT concerning prevention.

The INTERHEART study, published in the Lancet in 2004, followed 30,000 people in 52 countries. Researchers found that lifestyle changes could prevent at least 90 per cent of all heart diseases.

This was another big one: the EPIC study in 2009 looked at how 23,000 people adhered to 4 simple behaviours: not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Sticking to these four behaviours alone seemed to prevent 93% of cases of diabetes, 81% of cases of heart attacks, 50% of cases of strokes, and 36% of all cancers.



Of course, everyone is an individual, and there is no official ‘single diet’ that all humans should eat. But if there were, this would be it because it handles what the essence of the problem is – overweight and a highly inflammatory internal environment.

Before I dive in with some of the answers, I want to say a little about fat because, if you’ve heard one thing about staving off a heart attack, it’s ‘cut back on fat’ (especially the saturated kind).

The success of some low-fat dietary models in weight loss is thought to be more likely due to the simultaneous reduction of sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.

Dietary fat turns off fat production in your liver. Unlike carbohydrates and protein, dietary fat does not trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin.

There is one type of fat everyone should avoid, and it’s trans fats, a kind of Frankenstein fat added to food to improve the shelf life and mouthfeel of products. One study found that the risk of coronary heart disease doubled with each 2 per cent increase in calories from trans fats (Iqbal, 2014). Another researcher even concluded: “On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of CHD more than any other micronutrient.” (Mozaffarian et al., 2006).


The real villains in the piece are refined grains and sugar. During processing, refined grains are stripped of the bran and germ, two parts of the grain kernel that contain a wealth of nutrients. The final product is starch with no nutritional value, providing little more than carbohydrates and calories. Refined carbohydrates can be found in various foods, including white bread, pasta and rice, muffins, cakes, cookies, crackers, and bagels. Unfortunately, these foods comprise a good chunk of the modern Western diet and may be linked to a higher risk of heart disease. One study from China found that a higher carbohydrate intake, mainly from refined grains, was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease among 117,366 adults (Yu et al., 2013).

Sugar is one of the main culprits of heart disease. Added sugars from foods like sweets, desserts, juice and soft drinks can spike blood sugar levels, damaging the blood vessels, overloading the liver and increasing the risk of heart disease.

Interestingly, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that participants who drank the highest amount of sugar-sweetened beverages had a 20 per cent higher relative risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who consumed the lowest amount (de Koning et al., 2012).


A lower carbohydrate diet is recommended to balance blood sugar and reduce insulin and blood glucose levels. Elevated insulin is a significant risk factor for heart disease and promotes inflammation. You’ll also likely lose weight on a blood sugar-balancing diet, which will reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure.

  1. PROTEIN Eat a source of protein at every meal and snack. This can be any fish/ seafood, poultry, meat, nuts, seeds, tofu, or eggs. Given that you probably eat enough meat already and many people don’t eat nearly enough vegetable protein, see if you can bring in more fish and vegetable protein sources over the week. Ideally, eat two to three vegetable-based protein meals weekly. Replace animal-based protein meals with lentils, legumes, tofu, quinoa or nuts and seeds. If you’re a fish eater, get in wild-caught fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, twice a week.
  2. FRUIT & VEG Get plenty of fruit and veg but focus specifically on eating veg that grows above the ground and fruit that can be grown in this country. These foods naturally contain either less natural sugar or lower amounts of carbohydrates, which impact hormones. At each meal, have this cover at least half of your plate. The aim is seven a day and, ideally 5 from veg. Over a week, aim to eat all different colours – span the rainbow to enjoy a diverse intake of nutrients. Enjoy berries, citrus fruit, peppers and leafy greens.
  3. FIBRE is a great addition, the soluble kind you’ll find in oats, lentils, split peas, flaxseed, citrus fruits and apples. All of those are heart-healthy choices. From the insoluble category, eat nuts and whole grains.
  4. FAT Some fats are healthy; let’s not forget that fat is essential for life. Get your fat from avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds.
  5. CARBS Think carefully about the quality (what kind) and the quantity (how much) of starchy carbs like bread, pasta, cereals, potato, and rice. Focus on wholemeal over white, sweet potato over regular white potato, basmati or brown rice over long grain. You can also try throwing in a few ‘faux carbs’ like cauliflower or broccoli rice, courgette (spiralised into noodle shapes), butternut squash waffles, etc.
  6. PROCESSED MEAT In recent years, numerous studies have connected processed meats, like hot dogs, salami and tinned beef, to a range of adverse effects on health. Not surprisingly, processed meats can also negatively affect heart health, so best to give them a wide berth.
  7. VEGETABLE OILS can be very damaging for heart health. Recent studies show that oils like rapeseed are not helpful (even though the supermarkets are brimming with these options). The linoleic acid they contain has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  8. SUGAR Remove as much sugar as you can from your diet as this is the real villain in the tale. That means saving sugary treats for high days and holidays and, most of the time, ditching breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, pastries, and so on, and checking the label of jarred sauces, where sugar often lurks.
  9. FIZZY POP Avoid fizzy soft drinks. Eliminating soft drinks is one of the best things everyone can do for their heart. Besides being laden with controversial chemicals and unhealthy ingredients, soft drinks are also brimming with added sugars.

Do you notice a trend in my diet tips? What’s to focus on is real food. You would benefit from decreasing the processed stuff most people kid themselves is OK for them to eat. Truly, your body doesn’t know what’s going on when you shovel in heavily processed or chemically altered foods.

Eating this way – sometimes referred to as a low GL (glycaemic load) diet – will also help, providing your body with a steady supply of energy through the day rather than a high-octane rollercoaster of energy spikes and troughs.

Putting the food work into your life alongside the commitment to regularly de-stress, move your body and prioritise sleep is not always easy to do on your own. It is always helpful to have someone – like me – in the wings, helping you fit what you already know about eating well into your life and keeping you motivated to follow your plan for long enough that you see a shift in your health.

[here is the perfect place to make an invitation to a free call].



Salt has long been considered a major contributor to high blood pressure, and the high salt content of processed foods and junk food has been given at least some of the blame for the high incidence of hypertension and heart disease. However, even this recommendation has recently come under scrutiny and may change.

Recent research has cast doubt on the role of salt intake in hypertension (DiNicolantonio, Lucan et al., 2014). However, the WHO and most countries still recommend less than 2g sodium/day, equivalent to <5g/day salt in adults or 1 teaspoon. Until this changes, we should stick to the guidelines yet recognise that other factors contribute to high blood pressure (such as sugars). Salty snacks like potato chips, pretzels and microwave popcorn are full of added ingredients and salt, which can seriously affect heart health – they are best avoided. Choose natural sea salt, which is rich in trace minerals. The healthiest forms of sea salt are the least refined, with no added preservatives. Pink Himalayan salt is widely regarded as the ultimate mineral-rich seasoning and the purest of the natural salt family. Regarding health benefits, sea salt is plentiful in trace minerals due to its marine derivation, delivering many of the same nutritional compounds that make superfood seaweed so nutritious. The healthiest forms of sea salt are the least refined, with no added preservatives (which can mean clumping in the fine variety).

If you’re not sure where to start, take the first step today by booking your free 30-minute Health and Energy Review, so we can talk about your health concerns, and I can give you some energy-boosting strategies you can use straight away. If this sounds like what you need – link in here.