28 Jun The 5 foods to eat and enjoy for a healthy heart
In a guest post for Exercise Right, Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) investigates the best foods to eat and enjoy for a healthy heart.
Heart disease is the number one killer in the country, claiming a life every twelve minutes. It’s caused by fatty deposits clogging and narrowing of the coronary arteries, which reduces blood and oxygen supply to the heart.
But despite the alarming statistics, most of the risk factors for heart disease can be controlled through healthy lifestyle choices. These include not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, regular exercise, monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol, and limiting your alcohol intake.
Food is closely linked to many of these risk factors, and following a healthy, balanced diet can be protective against heart disease. Read on for the Dietitian’s Association of Australia’s top foods to include for a healthy heart.
1. Don’t shy away from healthy fats
Healthy fats are unsaturated fats found in oily fish like salmon and sardines, avocado, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. These healthy fats help to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. So snack on a handful of nuts, toss some olive oil or avocado through your salads, make salmon a regular on your menu and enjoy a weekly dose of sardines on a dense grainy slice of toast to keep your heart healthy.
2. Eat a rainbow
We’re often told to eat more fruit and vegetables, and for good reason! Abundant in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, fruit and vegies offer protection against heart disease, as well as a whole host of other conditions.
Adults should aim for five serves of vegetables each day, and two serves of fruit. Click here to get an idea of what a serve is, and exactly how much you should be eating each day.
Why not try adding banana or berries to your morning muesli, or enjoy tinned peaches with yoghurt for a snack? Bulk up soups and pasta sauces with extra grated vegies, and snack on crunchy carrot, celery, or capsicum sticks with hummus or tzatziki dip.
3. Replace salt with flavoursome herbs and spices
Too much salt in your diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, which itself is a risk-factor for heart disease. The National Health and Research Council recommends adults should aim for no more than one teaspoon of salt each day, but we know that the average Australian has around three times this.
Instead of adding salt to your meals, create flavour with aromatic herbs and spices. Think parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, chilli, and ginger. Fresh or dried, these can lift a meal without adding salt or kilojoules, and have the added benefit of an antioxidant boost.
4. Go with the grain
Whole grain foods are an important part of a heart healthy diet. Including foods like oats, whole grain bread, pasta, and rice each day can protect against heart disease. These foods are high in fibre, which not only keeps you fuller for longer, so may help to manage weight, but can also help to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Grains are also packed with minerals, and antioxidants, so be sure to include a variety each day.
5. Love your legumes
Like grains, legumes are known to protect against heart disease. Full of fibre and antioxidants, eating legumes regularly can reduce blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and help to maintain a healthy weight. Try adding chickpeas, lentils, or kidney beans to soups, stews, or casseroles, or start your day with delicious baked beans on toast!
Want more great advice?
For more on healthy eating, contact an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) – they’re the experts in food and nutrition. APDs provide practical, tailored advice based on the latest science, and can help motivate and support you to take charge of what you eat. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section on the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au to find an APD in your area.