Heart Healthy Eating Principles

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This style of eating is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar and rich in unsaturated fats (MUFA, omega-3 PUFA, and omega-6 PUFA), along with wholegrains, fibre, and antioxidants. Eating this way can help improve the heart health of all Australians by reducing CVD risk factors such as high blood pressure and blood lipids and decreasing the risk of CVD events and mortality.

1. Fruits, vegetables, wholegrains 

Research shows that higher intakes of vegetables and fruits are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Eating patterns high in fibre from wholegrains have been linked to reduced LDL-cholesterol levels, and reduced heart disease risk. Current eating patterns tend to be low in vegetables, fruits and wholegrains. Increasing intake of vegetables and fruits, along with increasing intake of wholegrains, and a concurrent reduction in refined carbohydrates, will help to shift current eating patterns towards healthier eating patterns.

2. A variety of healthy protein sources including fish and seafood, lean meat and poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Healthy eating patterns include a variety of protein sources. These foods are good sources of macro and micronutrients such as proteins, iron, zinc and vitamins, particularly those of the vitamin B group. Research suggests that including plant-based proteins in your daily eating plan is linked to healthier hearts.

Animal-based proteins like meat and poultry are not associated with heart disease risk, and in fact, regular consumption of fish promotes heart health. Legumes, nuts and seeds are good sources of plant proteins, fibre, healthy fats and micronutrients. Their regular consumption is linked to healthier hearts.

3. Reduced fat dairy such as unflavoured milk and yoghurt, and cheese

Within a healthy eating pattern; milk, yoghurt and cheese will be important sources of calcium, protein and other vitamins and minerals. Reduced fat dairy foods with no added sugar are good sources of protein and calcium, and as part of healthy eating patterns, their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Similar to other saturated fats, dairy saturated fat appears neither protective nor harmful when compared with total carbohydrate on heart disease risk. While saturated fat, compared to unsaturated fat, increases heart disease risk. Reduced fat, no-added sugar dairy, is preferred to assist with healthy weight, healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, all key risk factors for heart disease.

4. Healthy fat choices with nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking

Unsalted nuts, seeds such as linseed, chia or tahini, avocados, and cooking oils made from plants or seeds like olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, soybean, rice bran, sesame and safflower will contribute unsaturated fats (omega-3 [ALA] and omega-6). These types of fats have been associated with reductions in LDL cholesterol and increases in HDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.

5. Herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt

Diets high in salt are linked to increased risk of hypertension and heart disease. A healthy eating pattern, based on the previous 4 principles, will be naturally lower in sodium, and will help to lower population salt intakes.

* Water is the preferred beverage of choice