Why should I change my diet after a heart attack?

Making changes to your diet can help reduce your risk of having another heart attack. Other lifestyle changes, such as drinking less alcohol, taking regular exercisegiving up smoking (if you smoke) and maintaining a healthy weight can also help.

Read more about making other lifestyle changes after having a heart attack.

Mediterranean diet

There is evidence to show that eating a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce your risk of having another heart attack.

To make your diet more Mediterranean you can: 

  • eat more fruit (including tomatoes), salad and vegetables
  • eat more whole grains, nuts and seeds  
  • eat more fish
  • eat less meat
  • choose products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil, rather than dairy products, such as butter and cheese

Oily fish

Oily fish are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease. You should eat 2-4 portions of oily fish a week. Examples of oily fish include:

  • herring
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • trout
  • fresh tuna

One portion is about 140g, which is equivalent to a small tin of oily fish or a small fillet of fresh fish.

If you’ve had a heart attack in the last three months and you don’t eat enough oily fish, your GP may offer you a medicine containing omega-3 fish oils to supplement your diet.

Read more about oily fish.

Healthier ways to cook

Don’t fry or roast food in fat. Instead, prepare and cook your food using healthy methods such as:

  • steaming
  • poaching
  • baking
  • stir-frying
  • making a casserole
  • using the microwave

Buttery, cheesy or creamy sauces tend to be high in fat. Instead, try adding flavour to your sauces using spices, herbs and lemon juice.

Foods to avoid

Avoid foods that are high in:

  • fat (particularly saturated fat)
  • salt
  • sugar

Foods containing high amounts of fat, salt or sugar include: 

  • fried foods
  • sweets and confectionery
  • takeaways
  • processed foods
  • pre-packaged foods

Supplements to avoid

Don’t take beta-carotene supplements (beta-carotene is a type of vitamin A). Research has shown that taking these supplements may increase your risk of having another heart attack.

Also, taking vitamin C, vitamin E or folic acid supplements won’t help prevent another heart attack. There's no evidence to suggest that taking any of these supplements will have any benefit.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 20/06/2013

Next review due: 19/06/2015