A healthy diet is one of the most important ways you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Here are some guidelines for a heart healthy approach to food and cooking. To receive FREE Heart Healthy Recipes, simply join our Heart Smart Club here.
Avoid Saturated Fat
These are found mainly in animal products. Eating saturated fats raises the total level of cholesterol in your blood, as well as the level of LDL (bad cholesterol). This contributes to problems with blocked arteries.
Food sources include:
- meat, including lamb, pork, fatty beef, processed meats
- chicken with skin
- dairy products such as whole-fat milk, cream, butter, lard, hard cheese
- many baked goods and fried foods
- palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut products – oil, cream and milk.
Have at least three fish meals (fresh or canned) per week. Fish contains omega-3 fats, which lower cholesterol levels and help prevent blood clotting. Oily fish include tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, mullet, trout, swordfish. White fish are also a source of omega-3.
Reduce your Salt intake
While many of us analyse the fat and sugar content of our food, few of us spare a thought for the salt content and the impact it’s having on our body and health. Almost all Australian’s put themselves at risk by eating too much salt. Salt is sodium chloride. When we talk about cutting down on ‘salt’ we really mean cutting down on sodium.
Benefits of lowering salt
People need a very small amount of sodium to be healthy, which is present naturally in foods like seafood, meat, dairy, eggs and some vegetables. Reducing salt intake would lower blood pressure and improve health for most people.
Even people with normal blood pressure stand to gain significant long-term benefits from cutting salt from their diets.
Hidden salt in our diets
Around 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods. Many Australians are aware they shouldn’t be eating too much salt and have stopped adding salt in cooking or at the table. However, common foods such as bread, cereals, processed meat and pre-prepared meals can have very high levels of ‘hidden’ salt.
Increase your fruit & vegetable intake
Eat at least two pieces of fruit daily. Vegetables have been shown to be protective against heart disease and certain cancers. Aim for four or five serves per day.
Soluble fibre can help lower cholesterol reabsorption, and assist with blood glucose level control. Find it in oat bran, barley bran, wheat bran, rolled oats, legumes (e.g. kidney beans, chick peas, lentils), wholemeal breads and cereals, psyllium husks, fruit and vegetables.
Insoluble fibre is good for bowel health. Sources include fruit, vegetables and bran.
Manage your cholesterol
High levels of cholesterol in the blood increase your risk of heart disease.
- Eat no more than two or three whole eggs per week. Egg yolks contain cholesterol, while whites are cholesterol-free.
- Only eat offal meats, such as liver, brains, kidneys, once a month or less.
- Only eat prawns, shrimp, octopus and calamari once a week or less, as they are fairly high in cholesterol. Other shellfish are low in cholesterol and may be eaten as desired.
Maintain a healthy weight
Many people with heart disease are unable to do much physical activity or exercise, and find that they gain weight while eating their usual diet. But there are ways to stay active, when you have a heart condition.
It is very important to eat a healthy diet to help you to lose or manage your weight, and to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.