What Is a Cardiac Diet?

Grilled chicken breast can be eaten on a cardiac diet.
Donuts should be avoided on a cardiac diet.
Bag of oat bran.
High fat meat products, such as bacon, should generally be avoided by people on a cardiac diet.
Some foods are considered heart-healthy.
Whole wheat bread can be part of a cardiac diet.
An apple can make a good snack for someone on a cardiac diet.
Most cardiac diets restrict salt intake.
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  • Written By: Kerrie Main
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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Many people with cardiac problems, or a predisposition to them, need to follow some type of cardiac diet to treat or prevent cardiovascular disease. Typically, this medical diet consists of heart-healthy foods such as whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables. Cardiac diets usually are created by dietitians, and they prohibit harmful foods, including different types of fat, sodium, cholesterol and sometimes caffeine. In the United States, they often follow the basic guidelines of the National Cholesterol Education Program.

Some people utilize the cardiac diet to improve overall health and promote weight loss. A typical heart-healthy breakfast includes some form of whole grains and fiber, such as low-sugar cereal or oatmeal and fruit. Lunch might consist of a grilled chicken breast sandwich on whole-wheat bread with carrot sticks on the side. Snacks throughout the day usually consist of fruits such as apples or grapes. A dinner example might be a piece of grilled fish, grilled or steamed vegetables such as asparagus or broccoli and small side salad with lime juice as the salad dressing.


One of the main features of a cardiac diet is eliminating unhealthy fat from meals, including saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are known to contribute to high cholesterol and triglycerides, which typically cause plaque buildup on blood vessel walls and make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood. Trans fats can increase low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and decrease high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and they often are found in processed foods. Typically, a cardiac diet will cut out the consumption of bacon, luncheon meats, cheese, high-fat milk, high-fat red meat and many bakery products, such as donuts.

Many doctors and dietitians believe that sodium should be restricted to 2,000 mg to 4,000 mg per day on a cardiac diet. Sodium has a natural tendency to increase blood pressure and can have a negative diuretic effect when consumed with medicine. A heart-healthy diet usually will restrict salty snack foods and table salt. Some people think that any foods with more than 140 mg of sodium should be avoided indefinitely.

Restricting foods with high cholesterol is another feature of a typical cardiac diet. This type of food can include butter, red meat, high-fat dairy products and egg yolks. Too much bad cholesterol (LDL) can contribute to fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which can cause a heart attack. Cardiac diets usually suggest that a person consume no more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day.

Caffeine intake on many cardiac diets is restricted to less than two caffeine-containing items per day. It is a stimulant and can increase one's heart rate, which puts many people with cardiovascular issues at risk of a heart attack. A person on a cardiac diet might consider drinking green tea in place of other caffeinated beverages.


Discuss this Article

Post 3

Can anybody give me some good recipes for the cardiac diet listed above? My father has just been diagnosed with heart disease, and we're trying to help him transition into a healthier diet.

Of course, every time I search for cardiac or heart diet, I end up with the cardiac three day diet or the cardiac soup diet, so I'm hoping for a little better luck here.

Do you guys have any good recipes? He won't eat tofu or anything like that, by the way, so you can save those. Just, maybe lower cholesterol versions of typical foods would be nice.

Thanks so much!

Post 2

This actually sounds like a good diet! I was thinking that it was something like the three day cardiac diet, which is really pretty extreme.

I've never really gone in for fad diets anyway, but that one seems particularly crazy to me -- you really basically barely eat for three days.

Call me crazy but I'm not exactly sure how that helps your heart...of course, I've heard that there's a cardiac diet based on soup too, which might be a little more healthy, but still, I think that I'll stick with my normal, healthy diet/exercise plan. Then maybe I won't need a cardiac diet (of any kind) when I'm older!

Post 1

Thanks for this article -- my doctor recently told me that I'm at risk for cardiac disease because of my diet, and that I'm going to have to start following a cardiac diet plan at least three days out of the week.

I've looked at a bunch of different sites, but all I seem to find are those fad diets, like the 3 day cardiac diet, which just isn't what I need. This article was really really helpful, and actually provided information rather than a sales pitch.

Thanks, and keep up the good work!

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