Ruth Rogers, founder of The River Cafe, works on the principle that fresh, healthy ingredients make for delicious meals. Here are her suggestions for the industry, and six tips for a happy heart
Building caught a few minutes with Ruth Rogers, the founder of legendary restaurant The River Cafe and wife of celebrated architect Richard. Rogers and her business partner Rose Gray started the Hammersmith eaterie in 1987, revolutionising ideas about Italian food and restaurant dining in Britain. The pair's trademark of good ingredients prepared simply spawned a list of imitators that include television chefs Nigel Slater and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This spring, Rogers and Gray published their new bestselling book, River Cafe Cook Book Easy.

The River Cafe is within a tossed meatball of her husband's office – Ruth often sends over freshly made sandwiches to the architects. Speaking at a high-octane pace in between barking orders to her kitchen hands (it was approaching dinner and she'd only just finished the menu), Rogers gave Building a few key tips to pass on to the industry about healthy and tasty eating.

"I think people work best when they are well fed. I certainly do that with my staff – lots of other restaurants don't. They buy cheap food. We also try and offer seasonal fruit and vegetables – it gets people to understand between working in the summer and winter. That's especially appropriate for people who are working outside.

For a high-energy job such as construction, you want good prime organic food … Grilled meat is great – chicken or chops. It doesn’t have to be that expensive

"For a high-energy job such as construction, you want good prime organic food. I would go for chicken, but I would never give them anything but organic chicken – there is no taste with normal chicken. Grilled meat is great – chicken or chops. It doesn't have to be that expensive. During the week I would also have a less expensive fish as well.

"I would always use a high-quality olive oil for cooking in, which sounds silly but is very important. Also a good wholegrain sour dough loaf for making sandwiches. For a sandwich I would have ham or proscuitto with salami – I often send that over to Richard. You would need a strong salad leaf with it such as rocket as well as mozzarella.

Follow your heart: Easy ways to look after the ticker

Heart disease accounts for 120,000 deaths every year in the UK. There are six main ways of reducing the risk of developing the disease and also increasing the chances of survival after a heart attack, according to The British Heart Foundation. These are:
  • More fruit and veg  Eating at least five portions (see table above for what qualifies as a portion) a day to help prevent atheroma (thickening) on the inside walls of the coronary arteries. Fruit and vegetables are also low in calories and high in fibre, which will help to fill you up.

  • Less fats and cholesterol Replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats – it will help to improve the ratio of protective cholesterol to harmful cholesterol in your blood.

  • Keep weight down Reduces blood pressure and the workload on your heart.

  • More fish and fish oils We do not know exactly how they help – it may be by helping to keep the heartbeat regular, reducing the level of triglycerides (fatty substances found in the blood) and preventing blood clots from forming in the coronary arteries.

    Oily fish to go for include mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchard, salmon and fresh tuna.

    Other foodstuffs that have a similarly healthy effect are flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oils, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach and leafy green vegetables.

  • Less salt Keeps your blood pressure down. You should have no more than 7 g per day for men and 5 g for women.

  • Less alcohol Too much booze can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and lead to weight gain. However, moderate drinking – one or two units a day – can help protect the heart in men aged over 40 and women who have gone through the menopause.