Food, Heart Disease and Cholesterol

Reducing heart disease and reducing cholesterol are not the same but there is overlap.

Foods that Promote Heart Disease


(eg one sugary drink a day increases the risk of heart disease & stroke by 50%

and one Diet drink daily increased the risk of heart attack and stroke by 43%)


(this is thought to be due to the lactose, not the fat, so using skimmed & semi-skimmed milk will be a worse choice)

Hydrogenated Fats

These are sometimes called trans fats –found in processed foods, cooking oils, mayonnaise and margarines. Anything food that can sit in a wrapper on a supermarket shelf with a long expiry date will likely contain trans fats.

(Some but not all studies implicate meat)

Foods that Help Prevent Heart Disease

Oily fish: mackerel, herring, sardines (not salmon which is mostly farmed)


Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs & Spices (high in anti-oxidants and bioflavonoid, especially if highly coloured)


Olive Oil

Foods that Raise Cholesterol

Sugars (see below)

Refined carbohydrates such as most bread (except wholemeal), white flour products, white rice, chips and cooked potatoes (not baked potato).

Sugars: the biggest problem is hidden sugar – found in sauces, ready meals, soups, cereals , yoghurts and especially foods labelled as low fat.

Look on the packet or tin: will give sugars per 100 grams. 4 grams is a teaspoon of sugar –if it’s higher than this it is high in sugar.

Foods that Lower Cholesterol

Good fats: oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, flaxseed, avocado

Other foods that lower cholesterol: oats, fibre

Note eggs do not increase cholesterol and seem to be heart friendly in most studies

Studies on Foods that reduce Heart Disease

Chinese study: 100 grams fruit daily (eg half an apple) reduced heart disease by 60%.

Nuts –handful of nuts daily reduces risk by 50%.

Mediterranean diet reduced risk by 70%.

5-6 glasses of water reduced risk of heart attack by 50% compared with those taking 2 or less.

Oily fish 3 times weekly: reduced risk of heart disease by 30%.

No drug comes close to giving these benefits

See leaflet: FOOD, LIFESTYLE AND THE HEART for more detailed information.