Nutrition And Heart Health

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease occurs when the heart or blood vessels are affected. This has been shown to be the most common cause of death all over the world. However, this can be prevented with suitable lifestyle changes. It is well known that physical activity, stress, genetics, high cholesterol, smoking, ageing play a role in the development of heart disease. However, nutrition is also vital in the prevention and management of heart disease.

Making your diet heart healthy    

Replace the saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats [1]

  • This has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce the bad cholesterol levels in your body which can support your heart. Saturated fats as well as trans fats are found in food like butter, coconut oil, palm oil, ghee, lard, cheese, red meat, baked good, fried food, cured meats, full fat dairy products. Therefore, aim to limit or replace these foods with unsaturated fats found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel etc. which will support your heart health.

Choose high fibre food [1]

  • Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down in the gut. Fibre has been shown to manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body which then reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Wholemeal, wholegrain, multiseed, atta flour-based food options, legumes and pulses, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds are food high in fibre that can be included into your diet to support your heart.

Include polyphenols in your diet [1]

  • Polyphenols are a compound found in plant-based food. Polyphenols have been shown to manage blood pressure, support blood vessels and circulation to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Polyphenols are easy to include in your diet as it is found in fruits, vegetables, tea, spices which can be incorporated into your diet easily.

Include healthy protein options [2]

  • Choose plant-based protein options such as beans, chickpeas, lentils (dhal), nuts and seeds along with animal-based protein options such as eggs, poultry, fish and seafood options. Aim to limit red meat to only 1-3 meals per week as red meat has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease compared to the protein options mentioned above.

Use herbs and spices instead of salt [3]

  • Consuming a high intake of salt can affect blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart disease. Generally, the food we consume, naturally contain salt, however we are so used to adding additional salt to further enhance the flavour which is unnecessary. Therefore, using herbs and spices to flavour food can significantly help reduce blood pressure and support your heart. Additionally, gradually reducing the salt intake in food with time, will help your taste buds adjust to the flavour of the food, which will help you to easily limit your salt intake over time.

Food items that can negatively affect heart health

  • Red meat
  • Fried food
  • Baked goods
  • Sugar and salt
  • Chips, crisps, sweet biscuits
  • Chocolates and lollies
  • Soft drinks and other sweet drinks
  • Takeaway food e.g. burgers, kottu, pizza
  • Short-eats and pastries

References

  1. Ndanuko et al, 2019, Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes: an Evidence Check rapid review brokered by the Sax Institute for the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
  2. Santos JA, Webster J, Land MA, Flood V, Chalmers J, Woodward M, Neal B, Petersen KS. 2019, Animal sourced proteins (meat and poultry) and Cardiovascular Health: an evidence check brokered by the Sax Institute for the National Heart Foundation of Australia.
  3. Public Health Nutrition. 2017 May:1-8.  2018, Dietary salt intake in the Australian population. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
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