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Diet to improve heart health

Poor diet is a leading risk factor for heart disease in Australia. Having a poor diet can increase your chance of developing high blood pressure and cholesterol, being overweight and diabetes. In turn, these conditions increase your risk of heart disease. Keep reading to learn about eating to maintain your heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. ACH Group’s dietitian – Kaitlyn Dienelt will share some tips on what you should include in a diet for heart health.

What to have more of…

Fill your diet with fruits, vegetables and wholegrain foods:

Fruits, vegetables and wholegrain are good for heart health
Selection of healthy food for heart, life concept

Look at foods that are fresh and unprocessed, or minimally processed. Having a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is important for consuming adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants, which work to prevent damage in the body and can lower your risk of heart disease.

Another protecting factor is fibre, which is greatly present in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. Wholegrain foods include grainy bread, brown rice or wholemeal pasta, which undergo less processing than your typical white bread or white rice. The fibre found in these items can help to lower cholesterol, which we know protects against heart disease. Such a simple swap it’s a no-brainer!

Healthy fats and oils:

Consider the type of fat consumed and switch to healthier options. Foods high in unsaturated fats are great at protecting against heart disease. Look at foods naturally higher in these, like oily fish, nuts and avocado. Cooking in oils such as olive, canola, peanut and sunflower, is another easy swap that your body will reap the benefits of. Make sure to sparingly use coconut oil too, as this is high in saturated fats which are not good for health.

Healthy proteins:

various kinds of legumes - beans, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans
various kinds of legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans

Incorporate healthy protein-rich foods into your meals. Beans, chickpeas and lentils are packed with protein and have a bonus of fibre. They help to reduce the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your body and increase the ‘good’ cholesterol. They can also assist in lowering blood pressure, another protective factor. Not only that, but legumes are a sustainable plant-based source of protein!

Eggs and poultry, like chicken and turkey, are great protein sources that are lower in fat. Red meat is another option for protein, but make sure to trim all visible fat off the meat before you cook.

What to have less of…

Added sugars:

Choose less processed foods and those without added sugary flavourings. One great example is incorporating unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese into your diet, which are important foods for bone health and protein intake. However, flavoured versions often have sugar added to drive up the sweetness, which we want to avoid. Not only is it cheese, yoghurt and milk, but look at packaged foods or treats that have sugar added during their processing.

Salt:

Reduce your salt intake

Pack in flavour with herbs or spices rather than salt and choose products with no added salt where possible. The recommended intake should be no more than 5 grams per day, which is equivalent to a teaspoon, or around 2000mg of sodium. Considering sodium naturally occurs in food, we need to be mindful of adding extra during food processing, cooking or the classic salt shaker on the table. Salt increases blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Choosing herbs or spices not only gives a fuller and rich flavour, but is better for your heart. And choosing no added salt products, or reading labels to find those with the lowest included amount, will be another bonus for your heart.

Highly processed foods:

To tie everything together, processed foods are generally higher in all of our ‘have less of’ items. Processed foods will often have salt added, sugar and unhealthy fats to increase the flavour and improve shelf life. By reducing these where you can, you will also limit these nutrients that are problematic for the heart.

ACH group offers a wide range of allied health services including dietetics, podiatry, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and personal training to help you stay healthy as you age. We specialise in health and wellbeing for ageing bodies and our qualified health specialists will work with you on a personalised plan to help you achieve your health goals. Contact us on 1300 22 44 77 and speak to our friendly team and find out how we can help.

About Kaitlyn

@kaitlyndienelt