10 heart smart foods
Heart disease is one of the greatest killers in the Australia. Take care of your heart health by adding heart-smart foods to your diet.
Registered dietitian Ayesha Seedathas selected 10 top heart smart foods.
Remember to look out for foods that are lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt) and added sugar, and higher in fibre (where applicable).
1. Fish & seafood
Oily fish and seafood contain omega-3 fats, which help to maintain good general health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Omega-3 fats are found primarily in fish such as Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, gemfish, canned sardines, canned salmon and some varieties of canned tuna. Other fish, such as barramundi, bream and flathead, and seafood, such as arrow squid, scallops and mussels, are also good sources of omega-3.
Try to eat two to three serves of oily fish or seafood every week. A serving size of fish is 150 grams or approximately the size of your whole hand. You can use fish oil capsules and omega-3 enriched foods and drinks to supplement your intake of omega-3 fats.
Top tip: Tinned fish can be high in salt. Look for canned fish with lower levels of salt.
Avocados are packed with good fats to help lower cholesterol levels, but if you are keeping an eye on your waistline, watch your serving size. One portion is equivalent to a quarter of a small avocado which contains the same amount of energy (kilojoules) as a teaspoon of margarine.
Top tip: Add avocado to your salad or sandwich, or blend together avo and skim milk for a delicious shake.
In addition to containing fibre and vitamins (A, C & E), walnuts are also rich in good fats, lowering cholesterol levels and preventing blood clotting. Other examples of healthy nuts include almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews and macadamias. These can easily be incorporated into your diet by crushing and sprinkling themover salads, yoghurt or eating them whole as a snack on their own. Again, these are high in energy, so if you are trying to lose weight, watch the size of your serving, a small handful is a portion.
Top tip: Look for nuts with no added salt.
Flaxseeds are filled with fibre and good fats, one tablespoon of seeds has the same amount of energy as a teaspoon of oil. Other examples include pumpkin or sesame seeds.
Top tip: Add seeds to your cereal, favourite smoothie or salad for your daily dose of healthy fats.
5. Olive oil
Olive oil is known to have heart health benefits due to its cholesterol-lowering effect, which may help reduce the blood’s tendency to clot and help slow the onset of atherosclerosis (process of narrowing and hardening of the arteries). Although olive oil is an excellent source of healthy fats, other suitable sources include canola, avocado and peanut oils. Also, more affordable oils such as sunflower, maize and cottonseed are heart-healthy.
Top tip: When cooking, replace butter with vegetable oils as they contain far less unhealthy fat.
Opt for margarines made from sunflower, canola, olive and safflower oils over butter as these contain healthy fats. Look for margarines that have less than one per cent trans fatty acids and are low in saturated fat.
Tip: Some margarines can be used for cooking and baking (check label), so use these instead of butter.
Although the above foods have heart health benefits due their healthy fat contents, it does not mean that they should automatically be added or included to your diet, especially if your diet is already too high in fat. The greatest cardiovascular benefits are obtained by substituting bad fats for good fats rather than by just adding more fat to your diet. For example, replace butter with margarine or palm, olive or canola oil.
Oats have a cholesterol-lowering effect due to their soluble fibre content and can be eaten in the form of rolled oats, oatmeal or oat bran.
Top tip: Benefit your heart by adding oat bran to your cereal (two tablespoons), yoghurt or smoothie. You can have oats for breakfast or add it to the recipe when baking your favourite muffins.
Packed with protein, vitamins and soluble fibre, beans make a tasty and healthy accompaniment to soups, casseroles, stews and even salads. The soluble fibre in beans helps to lower cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart. Try to make beans (or other legumes like peas) part of your diet on a regular basis.
Top tip: Canned beans are a quick, easy and cheap way to add fibre and protein to meals.
9. Low-fat yoghurt
Dairy plays an important role in one’s diet, providing vital protein, B vitamins, calcium and other minerals. However, full cream products can increase cholesterol levels. So, next time you are shopping for dairy foods, choose low-fat or, better still, fat-free options. Kids under the age of five should consume full-cream dairy products.
Top tip: Choose low-fat yoghurt over full cream.
Strawberries and other berries offer heart health benefits due to their fibre and vitamin (A, C & E) content. Other fruits include citrus fruits and yellow/orange coloured fruits and vegetables. Aim for five vegetables and fruits daily.
Top tip: Blend some fruit with whey protein and chia seeds to make a delicious, heart smart smoothie.
Image via Thinkstock