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What To Eat While Recovering From a Heart Attack

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 13

What To Eat While Recovering From a Heart Attack

A healthy diet generally consists of whole grains, lean protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Of course, you also need appropriate portion control. Health experts say if you make healthy eating a lifestyle, your risk of developing diseases, including heart ailments, significantly decreases. But what if you’ve suffered from a heart attack? What should a healthy diet look like after a cardiac event? In this article, we’ll talk about the foods for heart attack patients. 

Foods for Heart Attack Patients

Health officials say people with existing heart conditions, including those who are recovering from myocardial infarction (heart attack) should still follow the Heart Healthy Eating Principles, with several changes. 

The Heart Healthy Eating Principles include:

Lots of Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains 

Fruits and vegetables contain various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that protect the heart. Whole grains, on the other hand, are rich in fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol levels. 

The goal is to swap refined carbohydrates (white rice, pasta, bread) with whole wheat products (brown rice, grainy bread, etc.)

Healthy Proteins

Foods for heart attack patients include healthy protein sources. That means focusing more on plant-based proteins (beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds) and seafood. You can also have poultry and eggs (with limitations). 

Reduce your intake of red meat and definitely avoid processed meats.  

Healthy Dairy

Dairy products do not protect against heart diseases nor improve recovery, but they contain calcium, protein, and other minerals that boost overall health. 

Dairy foods for heart attack patients should focus on reduced fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. 

Healthy Fats 

Can foods for heart attack patients still include fats? Experts say, yes. You just need to be careful with the sources. Healthy fats help protect your heart, but unhealthy ones can worsen your condition. 

Focus on having fats from avocados, nuts and seeds, and olives. Also, don’t forget to use healthy cooking oils

Herbs and Spices

Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals. Increased salt in diet can raise your blood pressure, which then negatively affects your recovery. 

Additional Reminders

As mentioned earlier, foods for heart attack patients follow the principles above, but with some changes. These changes include:

  • Consuming no more than 7 eggs in a week.
  • Ensuring you have 2 to 3 grams of plant cholesterol per day.
  • Ensuring you consume no more than 350 g of red meat per week. 

What To Limit and Avoid

More than knowing the foods that help you recover and keep you healthy, you also need to know about the foods you need to limit and avoid. 

Experts say it’s best to limit your intake of:

  • Salt
  • Fluids. Taking more fluids than necessary stresses your heart. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding fluid intake. 
  • Caffeine, as it might overstimulate you. 

As much as possible, avoid consuming:

  • Processed and packaged foods, like chips, store-bought cookies, etc. They are usually high in salt and sugar, but low on nutrients. 
  • Sugary drinks and foods. 

Additional Tips

Remember that portion control is also important. Generally, a regular plate should have ½ fruits and vegetables, ¼ healthy protein, ¼ whole grains. 

Swapping foods help you transition to a heart-healthy diet. For instance, from salted nuts, switch to unsalted variety (a handful a day is great!). Instead of using a high-fat sandwich spread, consider a spread of avocado. 

Of course, don’t forget to plan with your doctor or nutritionist. Having a long-term perspective increases the chance that you’ll sustain your healthy eating habits. Working with a doctor or nutrition expert will also help you discern if your current diet is working well. 

Finally, remember that diet is just one aspect of recovery. You also need appropriate exercise, relaxation, and adequate sleep. 

Key Takeaways

Foods for heart attack patients are similar to the foods for a heart-healthy diet, with some changes. To have a personalized meal plan after a cardiovascular accident, set an appointment with your doctor. 

Learn more about Healthy Eating here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 13

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