Cardiac Diet – How to Improve Heart Health

The cardiac diet plan is something you employ when you need to improve the health of your heart. But you can also use the diet to lose weight quickly.

For example, followers of this diet claim you can lose between 2 and 7 pounds in just 5 days. You can use the plan in two ways, five days cardiac diet repeated three times, or three-day plan repeats five times.

Because the foods you consume during the 15 days are rich in vitamins and minerals, there will be no fatigue or feeling of weakness and exhaustion at the end of the diet [1]

On first glance, you might say that the cardiac diet is similar to the citrus diet. However, that is not the case. Yes, they are similar, but they are also different in key details.

You can practice the diet for 15 days, or for more. If your goal is to lose just a few pounds, repeat the 5-day or 3-day plan for a maximum of 15 consecutive days.

However, if your goal is to lose more than 10 pounds, than between 3 cycles, get 15 days of break.

Why the diet works?

Cardiac diet plan

The cardiac diet or some call it the medical diet, is actually a term we use for heart-healthy diet [2]

The term was given due to the fact that similar diet plans are given to patients with heart disease. They need to lose weight before surgery and do that before losing any strength.

The diet works because it is quite restrictive and low in calories. In the short run, this is an effective strategy for quick weight loss.

The downside is that if you do not employ healthy eating habits afterward, your weight will come back, better known as the yo-yo effect.

The diet plans are based on eating lots of nutrient-rich foods. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five day and the three day meal plan.

Five-day meal plan

five day meal plan ( infographic )

Day 1

  • For your breakfast, get 1 orange, drink a cup of coffee or tea without sugar, and 4 crackers
  • Your lunch is 1 boiled egg, half a cup of yogurt, and 1 orange
  • For your dinner, get 2 tomatoes, 2 boiled eggs, 1 cucumber, or 1/2 lettuce salad

Day 2

  • Your breakfast is same as on Day 1, or 1 orange, 4 crackers, and a cup of sugar-free tea or coffee
  • The lunch is also same as day 1, consisting of 1 orange, 1 boiled egg, and ½ cup of yogurt
  • For your dinner, treat yourself with 1 burger (125g of mincer meat), 1 orange, 1 tomato, 4 crackers, and a cup of sugar-free drink

Day 3

  • Breakfast is same as previous days
  • Lunch consists of 1 orange, 1 boiled egg, 1 lettuce salad, ½ cup of yogurt, 2 cucumbers, and any sugar-free drink (water works best)
  • For dinner, grab 1 burger, 1 orange, 4 crackers, and 1 cup of coffee or sugar-free tea

Day 4

  • As you can imagine, the breakfast stays the same 1 orange, 4 crackers, and 1 cup of sugar-free beverage
  • Your lunch is now 125g of non-fat cheese, 4 crackers, and 1 tomato
  • Your dinner consists of 1 burger, 2 tomatoes, 1 apple, and 4 crackers

Day 5

  • For breakfast, you stay with the usual
  • Treat yourself with 200g of fish or chicken for lunch, accompanied by 4 crackers and 1 tomato
  • Your dinner is 500g of cooked vegetables, 1 tomato, and 1 boiled egg

3 Day Cardiac Diet

Birmingham diet

Also known as Birmingham diet, as the belief is that it was developed at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Researchers there deny it. One concern is the calorie count, as you consume less than 1,200 calories per day.

Day 1

  • For breakfast, get 1 cup of black coffee or tea, ½ grapefruit, 1 slice of dry toast, and 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
  • Your lunch is 1 cup of sugar-free drink, ½ cup of tuna, 1 slice of dry toast and 1oz of cheddar cheese
  • For dinner, get 3oz of any lean meat, 1 cup of string beans, 1 small apple, 1 cup of carrots, and 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 2

  • Breakfast is different every day in the 3-day diet plan, and you get 1 cup of coffee or tea without sugar, 1 egg, 1 slice of dry toast, and ½ of banana on your second day
  • For lunch, you get ½ cup of cottage cheese, 1 cup of tea, and 5 saltine crackers
  • Dinner consists of 2 beef franks, 1 cup of cabbage, ½ cup of turnip greens, ½ banana, and ½ cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 3

  • Your breakfast is 5 saltine crackers, 1 small apple, 1oz of cheddar cheese, and 1 cup of sugar-free beverage
  • For lunch, you get 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 slice of dry toast, and 1 cup of coffee or tea without sugar
  • Last, but not least, your dinner consists of 1 cup of tuna, 1 cup of cauliflower, 1 cup of beets, 1 cup of melon, and ½ cup of vanilla ice cream

Remember, you cannot make any substitutes. Salt and pepper can be added, but nothing else.

The idea with the 3-day cardiac diet is you stick to the menu for three days, eat responsibly for four days, and then repeat the 3-day diet again.

Quick notes

  • Meat and cooked vegetables can be slightly seasoned with whichever herb or spice you like
  • Meat should be baked to reduce the need for additional fat
  • You can replace fresh tomatoes with cooked ones if you like
  • You cannot skip meals
  • Hydrate your body during the diet with a lot of water, going for up to 2-3l per day

Heart Healthy Foods to Consume on a Daily Basis

Heart healthy foods

Once you stop following the cardiac diet, the key is to continue eating healthy heart foods to prevent weight gain, yo-yo effect, and protect your heart [3]

Here are some healthy foods to add to your daily menu.


  • Arugula
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Asparagus
  • Tomato
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower

Soluble fiber

  • Oats
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Ground flaxseed

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Herring
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Ground flaxseed

Are there any side effects?

In terms of safety and health, there are no possible and dangerous side effects when following the medical diet. However, there are certain risks.

For example, because the meal plans are low in calories, it is common for people to feel hungry and lack of energy during the diet plan.

If you are switching to the cardiac diet from a high-carb diet, you can expect headaches as a possible side effect.

How to prevent heart disease?

A diet that is good for your heart can help you lose weight simply by eating healthier and more nutrient-dense foods [4]

Here are some guidelines to follow.

Control portion size

What you eat is very important. As nutritionists like to say, quality over quantity. However, how much you eat is also important.

Do not overload your plate, avoid taking seconds, and avoid eating until you feel stuffed.

All of these can lead to consuming more calories than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often even more than the average Joe needs.

Use a small plate or bowl to control portions easily. Keep track of the number of servings you eat.

Consume more vegetables and fruits

The best source of vitamins and minerals are veggies and fruits. And you need these minerals to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Veggies and fruits are low in calories, and rich in dietary fiber, making them great for anyone trying to lose weight and life healthy.

Limit vegetables with creamy sauces, fried or breaded vegetables, canned fruits, and frozen fruits with added sugar.

Select whole grains

As mentioned previously, whole grains are key to losing weight and improving the health of your heart.

Whole grains are the best source of fiber, but also other nutrients. They play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart health.

Avoid grain products like white and refined flour, muffins, white bread, frozen waffles, doughnuts, cornbread, cakes, pies, biscuits, buttered popcorn, and high-fat snack crackers. Instead, turn to whole-wheat flour, high-fiber cereal, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread.

Opt for low-fat protein sources

We all need protein, as it is the building block of our muscles. However, it is important to know that not all protein is good protein.

You need low-fat sources of protein, like lean meat, poultry, and fish. Be careful to choose low-fat options like skim milk, not whole milk products. Also, skinless chicken is better than fried chicken patties.

Legumes, lentils, beans, and peas are a great source of protein for all vegetarians and vegans out there.

Create daily menu

The best way to know what you eat and how much you eat is to create and follow a daily menu. Use the strategies listed below to create your own menu.

You do not need to follow the 3-day or 5-day diet. Feel free to come up with your own menu plan, but stick to it.

Food Pattern Recommendations by the American Heart Association

If your goal is to stick to a healthy lifestyle, improve the health of your heart, and lose weight in the process, you do not have to stick to specific diets.

The key is to follow the daily food choices and patterns by the American Heart Association [5]

Here are some of those.

  • Consume variety of fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and/or fruits
  • Do not add high-calorie sauces or salt and sugars to your salads
  • Replace all high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables
  • Opt for fiber-rich whole grains
  • Consume poultry and fish without skin to avoid excess fat
  • Prepare your meat in a healthy way without added saturated and trans fat
  • Look for leanest cuts of meat available
  • Consume at least 8 ounces of non-fried fish each week. You can divide it into two 4 ounce servings
  • Consume fat-free and low-fat dairy products
  • Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Limit saturated fats and trans fat. Replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Cut back on beverages with added sugars, like soda drinks
  • Choose foods that contain little or no sodium
  • Prepare foods with little or no salt
  • Consume less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day to lower blood pressure and lose weight
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, meaning no more than one drink per day

References   [ + ]

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