It is possible that you have heard that changing how you eat can affect your health. What about your heart?
Poor diet is one the most important risk factors for developing heart disease in Australia . The health of your heart is affected by what you eat and drink.
- Blood pressure
- Diabetes risk
What is a healthy eating style?
- It can be good for your heart to eat a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods.
- Ideal diets are those that are low in unhealthy fats, salt, added sugar and high in wholegrains, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
- To help you reach this balance, follow our 5-step heart-healthy eating plan.
1. Consume lots of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains
Despite being some of the most healthy foods for your heart and stomach, many Australians don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and antioxidants and have been proven to prevent heart disease.
Wholegrains include wholegrains such as brown rice, wholemeal pastas, grainy breads, and oats. These foods are high in fibre, which can lower cholesterol. It is easy to make a change in your diet by switching from white bread and white rice to wholegrain varieties.
2. A variety of protein-rich, healthy foods are recommended.
There are better options for protein-rich foods than others. Plant-based proteins such as beans, chickpeas and lentils are the best choices. These foods have been shown by studies to lower your chances of developing heart disease .
You can enjoy eggs and poultry as part of a healthy eating plan.
Red meat is a risky choice. Limit your intake to 1-3 meals per semaine.
3. Unflavoured milk and yoghurt are available.
Although these foods won’t increase your risk of developing heart disease, they can provide important sources of calcium, protein, and other minerals.
The healthiest versions are those that don’t contain any added sugar.
Reduced-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are better options for those with high cholesterol or heart disease. You can choose from reduced-fat and full-fat options for those who do not have high cholesterol.
4. Healthy fats and oils should be included
Your risk of developing heart disease can be affected by fats and oils. Different types of fats have different effects on your health. Healthy fats can protect your heart and increase your chances of developing heart disease.
Eat foods high in healthy fats like avocados, olives and nuts. Use healthy oils to cook such as olive, sunflower, peanut, soybean, canola and sunflower oil. These foods can lower cholesterol.
5. To flavor foods, use herbs and spices instead of salt
Salt intake can increase blood pressure and lead to heart disease. Australians consume nearly twice the recommended salt (four).
Most people don’t realize that the majority of salt in their diet is found in packaged and processed foods like canned foods, salami and deli meats.
You can reduce salt intake by eating fresh, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables. You can add herbs and spices to enhance the flavour of your food.
Which foods should I eat less of?
It is good for your heart to reduce the intake of processed foods. The average Australian diet contains up to 35%  high-processed foods like:
- Baked goods e.g. Pastries, cakes and biscuits
- Sugary drinks, e.g. soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks
- Take-out food, e.g. pizza, burgers.
These foods are high in salt, added sugar, saturated and trans fats and are not recommended for a healthy diet. These foods should be consumed in very small quantities and only occasionally.
Don’t overeat: Choose the right portion size
Another important aspect of healthy eating is how much you eat. There are foods that we eat too often, foods we don’t like, and overall, our meals have grown in size.
There are many factors that influence how much you should eat, such as the food being served. As shown below, a plate should contain healthy portions of different food groups.