Healthy eating - a guide at a glance

More than 80 per cent of people in the Republic aged 45 or over have a high cholesterol level


More than 80 per cent of people in the Republic aged 45 years or over have a high cholesterol level, according to the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF).

It says a high cholesterol level is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, by eating healthy food, is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease, says the foundation, which is a partner in this year’s Irish Times/Pfizer Healthy Town project.

“However it is easy to be confused by what foods really will boost heart health while maintaining a balanced die,” says Sinead Shanley, a dietitian with the IHF. “Using the five ‘f’s is a simple but effective way to think about healthy eating, while optimising our heart health -fresh, fat, fruit & veg, fibre & fish.”

The IHF provides the following at a glance guide to healthy eating:

Fresh - Avoid processed foods, typically high in fat, sugar and salt. Salt can increase blood pressure and up to 70 per cent of our salt intake comes from processed foods. Allow time to prepare meals and snacks using fresh tasty ingredients that are in season. Freezing is a great way to make fresh foods last, while maintaining its goodness.

Fats are essential for heart health but the type and amount of fat you eat is what’s important. Unsaturated fats, like those found in olive and rapeseed oils, nuts, seeds and avocado help to reduce your cholesterol, while foods high in saturated fats like butter, coconut oil, lard, fatty meats, cakes and biscuits, can increase it. Eating all fats in small amounts will help keep the balance right.

Although sugar is not the enemy, as sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruit, it is added sugar in excess amounts that cause the problem. Eat less processed foods like sweets, biscuits and crisps, and choose naturally sweet berries. Order your free Food Shopping Card from

No single fruit or vegetable will contain all of the nutrients that you require, so eating a variety of colourful, seasonal fruit and vegetables will provide you with vitamins and minerals that are essential for heart health.

Fibre not only keeps you fuller for longer but it actually blocks cholesterol being made in the body. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and choose wholegrain breads and cereals, oats and beans. Drink plenty of water, when increasing your fibre intake to aid digestion.

Fish - Ideally you should eat fish two-three times a week, with at least one serving of oily fish such as herring, trout, salmon and tinned sardines. Oily fish is the richest source of omega 3, which contain unique heart healthy omega 3 oils. These oils can help your heart to keep a healthy rhythm and prevent blood clots.

And, most important, enjoy good food, while maintaining good eating habits.

Celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio is giving a free Cookery demonstration in the Sheraton Athlone Hotel at 7pm on Tuesday.
The event, which is part of the Irish Times/Pfizer Healthy Town project, is free.
To book contact: Emma Walsh, 01 669 0165 or email:
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