Coronary heart disease causes constriction and lack of proper blood flow in the arteries that lead to the heart. This constriction is caused by plaque, a fatty substance that builds up in the coronary arteries. Plaque build-up in the coronary arteries is a direct result of the consumption of the cholesterol found in foods such as dairy and meat. Vegetables and other plant-produced foods do not contain cholesterol, so a coronary heart disease diet typically contains a high amount of plant-produced foods that are lower in cholesterol and richer in soluble fibers.
Cholesterol is a substance found in many dairy products and meats. There are different types of cholesterol, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is considered considered a "good" cholesterol because it prevents plaque build-up in the arteries. LDL is considered "bad" because it increases plaque build-up that leads to coronary heart disease. A coronary heart disease diet should be low in foods that contain LDL.
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A coronary heart disease diet can include whole grain breads, pastas and brown rice. Patients typically consume lots of fresh vegetables and fat-free dairy products. Baking or steaming foods rather than preparing them with oil may be better for this diet because most cooking oils contain excess fat and cholesterol. When choosing meats, patients on a coronary heart disease diet should select the leanest cuts because lean cuts tend to have less LDL and other fats. High fat meat products, such as bacon, sausage, or liver should generally be avoided. Egg yolks can be replaced with lower cholesterol options, such as egg whites or egg substitutes.
In addition to suggesting foods for the coronary heart disease diet, experts offer many cooking and meal-planning tips. One tip is to replace dairy products with low-fat soy products. Patients can also cook with garlic, which adds flavor and may help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Eating a moderate amount of nuts, such as hazelnuts, almonds, or pecans, can also help improve cholesterol levels.
Experts also agree that a coronary heart disease diet should be combined with daily exercise. Exercise is important to cardiovascular health, and can strengthen the body's ability to process key nutrients that lower LDL cholesterol levels. Proper use of a coronary heart disease diet, which is low in saturated fats, may also lead to weight loss, which often enhances cardiovascular health. As heart health improves so may blood flow and artery function, and this is critical for proper blood circulation throughout the body.