A healthy diet doesn’t only have to be good for your waistline, but also your heart. As one of Australia’s largest health concerns, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) include many different conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. Picking the right healthy foods can lower your risk of heart disease, including coronary artery disease which can lead to heart failure and stroke. A few simple swaps could go a long way in making a difference for your cardiovascular health. Once you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you’ll be able to eat smarter and healthier.
In this article, we share a list of foods that when consumed as part of a well-rounded diet, will keep your heart healthy.
Vegetables, fruit and whole grains
Like other plants or plant-based foods, vegetables and fruits are low in calories as well as rich in dietary fibre. They have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels. Leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce and watercress are well-known for antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, thus helping to reduce risks of heart disease. Adding berries – especially blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries to your daily diet is an effective method to induce detoxification and decrease inflammation while protecting against cardiovascular illnesses.
Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat and quinoa are good sources of fibre that play a large role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. Sprinkling toasted oats on yoghurts and salads is an easy way to incorporate whole grains into your daily meals.
While the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends 1 – 3 servings of poultry, eggs, fish, and legumes or beans every day, limiting processed meats (e.g., ham and bacon) are essential to avoid health-related risks.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon and tuna can also lower blood fats called triglycerides while stabilising irregular heart rhythms. If you don’t eat much seafood, fish oil supplements are another option to obtain your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids. When preparing meat dishes, make sure to use little saturated or trans-fat oil on poultry and fish without skin for best benefits.
Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese
Contrary to popular belief, health benefits associated with dairy foods extend far beyond building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Naturally packed with nutrients such as calcium and protein, milk products, including those that are higher in fat, are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many ways to incorporate dairy into your daily diet, including;
- Sprinkling cheese on pasta
- Adding slices of cheese in sandwiches or wraps
- Consuming more milk or yoghurt-based smoothies
Healthy fats and oils
Different types of fats can impact your heart differently – saturated fat can significantly raise the risk of heart disease, while monounsaturated fats have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol. Food with high levels of healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocados are lower in levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and can help to protect your heart. Instead of using butter and unhealthy cooking oils, try other alternatives such as olive, canola, peanut or sunflower oil on salads, bread and cooked veggies. Avoid coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils, which are all high in saturated fat.
Herbs and spices
Did you know that the average Australian eats nearly double the amount of salt that is required for good health? Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and an array of heart-related ailments. While reducing the amount of salt added to your cooking is a good first step, much of the salt you eat actually comes from canned or processed foods. So, make sure to swap out these items with fresh, unprocessed foods like fruit and vegetables. Including herbs and spices are an excellent way to add flavour to your meals without putting your health on the line.
What foods should I have less of?
A balanced diet includes not just adding heart-healthy foods, but also reducing the intake of high amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbs. The following are a list of foods to avoid;
- Baked goods
- Processed meat
- Sweet beverages
- Takeaway food (E.g., pizza, burgers, etc.)
At Coolaroo Clinic, our GPs are available to address any concerns that you may have about your diet. We also provide nutrition consultations specialising in areas like weight management, women’s health, and many others. Get in touch with us for any enquiries and book an appointment today.