If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a health condition or know certain health issues run in your family, there are positive steps you can take to manage the condition or your likelihood of experiencing symptoms. Read on for diet and lifestyle changes that can make you feel more in control of your health and well-being.


Check out our full range of health benefits guides, including the healthiest fermented foods, healthiest nuts, benefits of turmeric and benefits of kefir.

Healthy man with avocado

1. What to eat for heart disease

You may be advised by your GP to keep your cholesterol in check to help manage your risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is transported in the blood, with the majority produced naturally in the liver. In fact, cholesterol is essential for health, but too much may be detrimental.

As a fat, cholesterol is transported by a carrier in the blood – protein complexes called lipoproteins. You’re probably familiar with them, because they're often confusingly referred to as 'bad' cholesterol (low density lipoproteins, or LDL) and 'good' cholesterol (high density lipoproteins, or HDL). But, lipoproteins are not themselves cholesterol, and both LDL and HDL will be present in a variety of different forms – the smaller and denser of which appear to pose the greater risk. Your unique mix of LDL, HDL and their sub-types depends on your combination of genes as well as your lifestyle.

Your blood fats, including cholesterol level, can be measured by a simple blood test. You can read more about how to get your cholesterol checked on the NHS website.

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  • Choosing healthier fats may help protect your heart. Cut back on saturated fats (butter, fatty meat, biscuits, cakes and cream) and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (oily fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds).
  • Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, replacing them with wholegrains and low GI carbohydrates.
  • Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and phytochemicals that help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, which reduces the chance of it being deposited in the arteries. They also contain carbohydrates, which give the body energy in a low-fat form – helpful for weight control.
  • Beans, pulses and porridge oats are high in a type of fibre that encourages the body to excrete cholesterol before it can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. A high-fibre diet also keeps you full, so you are less likely to snack on fattening foods.
  • Nuts help increase levels of HDL or so-called 'good' cholesterol, as does oily fish, which contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 may help protect the heart by preventing the blood from clotting. They may help reduce the risk of heart disease too, by encouraging the muscles lining the artery walls to relax, improving blood flow and regulating heart rhythm.
  • There is evidence that substances called ‘plant-sterols’ and ‘stanols’ – which are added to certain foods including some margarines, spreads and yogurts – may reduce blood cholesterol levels. Even if you do eat sterol-enriched foods, it is still important to make sure you follow a healthy diet. Some foods are naturally rich in these plant sterols, such as avocado.
  • Soya is a useful source of protein, fibre and unsaturated fats, all of which may help lower cholesterol. Soya products – for example soya milk, soya yogurts, tofu and miso – are a good source of polyunsaturated fats and are naturally low in saturated fat. Studies have indicated that eating 25g soya protein a day may lead to a 10% reduction in both total and LDL cholesterol.
  • Minimise your intake of trans or hydrogenated fats (often found in shop-bought biscuits and cakes); these are known to be one of the most dangerous fats for the heart.

Do this:

1. Include a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables in your diet each day.
2. Have oil-rich fish at least once a week.
3. Choose foods rich in unsaturated fats rather than saturated.
4. Keep your weight within a healthy range for you.
5. Aim to do at least 30 minutes exercise at least five times a week.

For more information, visit The British Heart Foundation.

Be inspired by our heart-healthy recipes, including our burrito bowl with chipotle black beans,
turkey meatballs and healthy banana bread.

Burrito bowl with chipotle black beans, sliced avocado, rice and hot sauce

2. What to eat for high blood pressure (hypertension)

People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure means your heart has to work harder to pump the blood around your body. A reading of 140/90mmHg (140 systolic and 90 diastolic) is considered to be hypertension. Ideally, aim for a blood pressure reading below 120/80mmHg – speak to your GP or healthcare provider if you are concerned.

  • Fruit and vegetables contain potassium, which may help manage blood pressure by counteracting the effects of too much salt (sodium). If you have high blood pressure, aim to eat at seven to nine portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day, focusing on vegetables.
  • Dietary sources of magnesium, calcium and folate, such as green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, pak choi and broccoli), wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds, are essential for blood pressure management.
  • There is a link between too much salt in your diet and high blood pressure. The body only needs a very small amount of sodium to function properly, and we eat much more than we need. Minimise your salt intake to 6g or less per day – that's the equivalent to 1 tsp per day.
  • The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) includes low-fat dairy and wholegrains, while avoiding excess meat and sugary foods. It is a proven effective treatment for high blood pressure. Have a look at our DASH diet recipes, including healthy porridge and chicken with crushed harissa chickpeas.

Do this:

1. Eat at least two servings of fruit or vegetables at each meal.
2. Take regular exercise and if you smoke, quit. Visit the NHS website for support.
3. Schedule time into your day to relax – stress increases the risk of high blood pressure.
4. Limit your salt intake to 6g or less per day.
5. If you are overweight, try to lower your weight into the healthy range. Being physically active plays an important part in this.

For more information about blood pressure, visit the British Heart Foundation.

Get cooking with our low-salt recipes, including tuna, caper & chilli spaghetti and tomato soup.

Tuna caper chilli spaghetti in a white bowl

3. What to eat for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Countless women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and many believe its unpleasant symptoms are unavoidable. Common complaints include low mood, anxiety, headaches and fatigue. There are many theories about the causes of PMS, including hormone levels, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and blood sugar imbalance.

  • Opt for low-GI, carbohydrate-rich foods, like oatcakes and wholegrains, which may help keep blood sugar levels stable and provide a sustained source of energy. This may also help with cravings, irritability and mood swings.
  • Research suggests that vitamin B6 (found in cereals, baked potatoes, bananas, chicken, beef and avocado) may improve a number of PMS symptoms, including those affecting your emotions.
  • Calcium-rich foods may also make a difference, and women with high levels of calcium in their diet tend to experience fewer symptoms. Choose dairy products, leafy green vegetables, soya, celery, cereals, dried fruits and almonds.
  • Foods rich in fibre help prevent constipation and manage oestrogen levels in your body by preventing the hormone from being re-absorbed in your gut. Porridge oats and dried fruits are useful sources.
  • Foods containing phytoestrogens may help alleviate hormonal imbalances, but are not effective for all women. Foods rich in these natural compounds include flaxseeds, fermented soya products like tempeh, tofu and miso, as well as beans and pulses like chickpeas and lentils. These foods are thought to help manage the influence of oestrogen in your body, potentially reducing symptoms like breast pain.
  • Eat less sugar, salt and saturated fat. Cutting back on salt may help offset the bloating and fluid retention commonly associated with PMS.
  • Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol, which may aggravate your symptoms. Aim to reduce your intake, especially in the two weeks before your period.

Do this:

1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, with plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals.
2. During the last two weeks of your cycle, try eating a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal every two to three hours.
3. Exercising regularly may encourage the release of endorphins, which promote a feeling of well-being.
4. Minimise stress. Find what works for you – whether that's yoga, meditation or exercise – and incorporate regularly within your lifestyle.

Try our berry bircher, tempeh traybake and sesame salmon with purple-sprouting broccoli & sweet potato mash.

Berry Bircher layered in a glass

4. What to eat for depression

There are many situations that may trigger low mood or depression, which may have physical as well as psychological symptoms: lack of energy, sleep disruption, change in appetite, constipation and menstrual changes. One in 10 people will experience depression at some stage in their lives. If you are concerned about your mental health, help is available – speak to your GP or visit the NHS website to find out more.

  • Increasing your intake of the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts and seeds may help to lift your mood. Increase your intake of oily fish to two or three portions a week (unless you are planning a pregnancy or are a woman in your reproductive years). Add unsalted nuts and seeds to your diet and use rapeseed or walnut oil for cooking and dressing salads.
  • Folate (folic acid), vitamins B6, B12 and magnesium deficiencies have all been linked to depression, so eat wholegrains, pulses, dairy products, eggs, nuts, dried apricots and dark chocolate.
  • According to one study, aspartame, the artificial sweetener found in low-sugar and ‘diet’ products such as fizzy drinks and chewing gum, may make symptoms worse.
  • Alcohol is a known depressant. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and too much sugar, as they play havoc with blood sugar control and may make your mood worse.
  • Eat regularly and don’t skip meals – especially breakfast. Skipping meals sets the scene for fluctuating blood sugar levels.

Do this:

1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
2. Start the day well by having protein and carbohydrates at breakfast. This prevents blood sugar, energy and mood plummeting mid-morning, leaving you reaching for a pick-me-up such as sugary snacks or coffee.
3. Poor appetite is a common symptom of depression; if your appetite isn't what it should be, it's worth taking a vitamin and mineral supplement.
4. Drinking relaxing herbal teas, such as chamomile, may help you feel calm and relaxed.
5. Regular exercise may be helpful and offer mental health benefits.

For more information, visit Mind or the Mental Health Foundation.

Try healthy pesto eggs on toast, salmon egg-fried rice and sugar-free banana bread.

Salmon egg-fried rice with vegetables and chilli sauce

5. What to eat for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis occurs when your bones become weak, fragile and more porous; this may lead to fractures. The risk of developing osteoporosis increases steadily as we age. After the age of 35, we naturally lose bone density, making it increasingly important to eat the right foods and implement lifestyle changes to help maintain bone density and strength.

  • Calcium and vitamin D are key nutrients for bone health. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt), calcium-set tofu, green leafy vegetables, almonds, canned salmon and sardines, and sesame and sunflower seeds. Vitamin D is vital for the absorption of calcium, but sadly it's found in very few foods – oily fish, egg yolks and liver all provide useful amounts.
  • Magnesium may have an important role to play in helping keep bones healthy. Good sources include brazil nuts, sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds, bananas and dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach.
  • Studies have found that a good intake of vitamin K may result in denser bones and fewer hip fractures; kale, broccoli and other green leafy veg are useful additions to your diet.
  • Eat less salt and consume less alcohol and fizzy drinks. A high salt intake may lead to calcium being leached from the bones and excreted by the body. Excessive alcohol intake may damage the cells that make new bone.
  • Taking too much vitamin A in supplemental form is thought to weaken bones over time – studies suggest that an average of 1500mcg a day over many years may affect the density of your bones and make them more likely to fracture.

Do this:

1. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which contain the minerals potassium and magnesium – these may encourage bones to absorb key minerals, such as calcium. Fruit and vegetables also contain vitamin C and zinc, which are required for bone health.
2. Take regular weight-bearing exercise and quit smoking. Smoking leaches calcium directly from bones.
3. Stick to government guidelines on alcohol consumption and enjoy at least two alcohol-free days each week. Visit the Drink Aware website for more information.
4. Make sure you get plenty of natural sunlight, particularly in the winter months. Vitamin D, which is vital for bone health, is synthesised in sun-exposed skin.

Our bone-healthy recipes include lentil salad with tahini dressing, roasted cauli-broc bowl with tahini hummus and sardines & tomatoes on toast.

Sardines on toast with tomatoes and lemon

6. What to eat for vision loss

There is a strong link between diet and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma – three of the most common causes of impaired vision and blindness in people over the age of 60.

  • Several studies have shown that those who eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are less likely to suffer from AMD and cataracts. Vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc are all needed. Additionally, the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to help protect the lens of the eye from damage by free radicals. Choose spinach, kale, broccoli, kiwi fruit, oranges, blueberries and peppers. Thanks to its healthy fat content, avocado offers lutein and zeaxanthin that is very easy to absorb.
  • Those who eat moderate amounts of fish have a 12% lower risk of developing cataracts, and it appears to help reduce AMD, too. A good intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, may also be useful in preventing glaucoma.
  • Keep within guideline amounts for salt and saturated fat intake – regular and consistent high amounts of these may lead to high blood pressure, a condition believed to increase the risk of glaucoma.
  • Caffeine increases pressure in the eye – for this reason, people with glaucoma are advised to avoid it. Excess dietary protein and trans fatty acids are also associated with increased risk of glaucoma.

Do this:

1. As a minimum, eat your five-a-day of fruit and vegetables.
2. Include oil-rich fish at least once a week.
3. Smoking and obesity both increase the risk of AMD, so quit smoking and keep your weight within the ideal range.
4. Protect your eyes in the sun by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses.
5. Get your eyes checked regularly.

For more information, visit the National Eye Institute.

For healthy eyes, try poached eggs with smashed avocado & tomatoes, spaghetti with salsa & sardines, and sweetcorn & courgette fritters.

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Have you made changes in your diet to manage a health condition? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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