It has long been recognised that there is a strong link between what we eat and the health of our heart. Traditional dietary guidelines for heart health posed as a challenge for many because they simply focused on individual foods or nutrients that were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and were often not relevant or practical and so difficult to follow. Recently, guidelines have been updated and the focus has shifted to overall eating patterns, taking into consideration factors that are likely to be far more relevant, such as stage of life and the environment we eat in. Ultimately, a heart healthy diet is a healthy diet for everyone, so these tips can benefit most of us.
Here is the list of the top 10 nutrition tips for a healthy heart.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
This doesn’t necessarily mean a weight within the normal BMI range but also a weight where you feel comfortable and are able to be regularly active.
2. Eat a rainbow
Aim to eat a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables every day for the range of nutrients as well as gut health benefits. These can be fresh, but also from canned and frozen.
3. Choose whole grains
Aim for grains to be minimally processed by looking for words like ‘wholegrain,’ ‘brown’ and ‘wholemeal’ on packaging. These grains are richer in many nutrients as well as fibre.
4. Think outside the box with your proteins
It’s easy to go for red meat and processed meats like sausages for a quick dinner but there are so many other great sources of protein that are likely to be better for your heart, your wallet and the environment. These include lentils and legumes (canned are great too! Think chickpeas, red kidney beans), tofu and tempeh (look up some recipes for a bit of inspiration), fish and seafood – especially oily fish like salmon, as well as low or no fat dairy products. Choose extra lean cuts of meat and skinless chicken breast where you can.
5. Do an oil audit
What we now know about oil now is quite clear, the main oil that we should use is extra virgin olive oil due to its spectacular health and heart benefits. It is great in salads but also safe to use in cooking. Other good oils are those that are liquid and non-tropical.
6. Avoid ultra-processed
These are basically all processed packaged foods that have added flavours, colours and preservatives, such as cakes, cookies and many snack foods. Choose instead minimally processed foods, for example a wholegrain cracker with just a few ingredients.
7. Minimise food and drinks with added sugars
Such as soft drinks and lollies, and look out for those hidden sugar in foods like bottled sauces and snack foods. A good guide is less than 10g/100g of sugar.
8. Limit the salt
Choose foods that are low salt or sodium, and avoid using salt in cooking, Salt can increase blood pressure.
9. Minimise alcohol
Follow the safe drinking guidelines! And don’t start if you don’t already drink.
10. Follow these recommendations where ever you are as best as you can
Whether it’s at work, out to dinner or at family or friend’s houses. This is particularly important if you eat outside of home often.