Surprised to hear about 52-year-old Australian cricketing icon Shane Warne, a seemingly fit and healthy ex-professional athlete, suffering a fatal heart attack? Then you might be wondering about the state of your own heart health. And men are no longer the primary candidates for heart attack and related high cholesterol. Women are now also just as much at risk of developing these stress-related killers.
Environmental factors and changing lifestyles mean the example your parents set may no longer apply. Fast-moving research also means conflicting health advice. Are eggs on or off the menu? Is cheese and full-fat milk recommended or not? With more people than ever living with high cholesterol, HFG sets the facts straight.
Foods for a healthy heart
Dietary cholesterol has minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels, so you don’t have to pay too much attention to the cholesterol in the foods you eat. It’s far more important to cut back on saturated fats, since this has a far more potent effect on your LDL (bad) cholesterol level.
Foods that are part of a healthy, balanced diet will improve your cholesterol profile. A heart-healthy diet is based on:
✓ Fresh fruit and vegetables
✓ Whole grains such as grainy bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and quinoa
✓ Lean proteins, including seafood, legumes (chickpeas and lentils), nuts and seeds
✓ Reduced-fat dairy products or calcium-fortified soy alternatives
✓ Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Cut back on…
Foods high in saturated fat that it’s wise to minimise are:
✗ Fatty meats, especially meat with visible fat such as lamb chops or roast chicken with skin on
✗ Processed meats such as bacon, pastrami and salami
✗ Takeaway or deep-fried foods such as battered fish and chips or potato scallops
✗ Sweet and savoury pies, tarts and other pastry-based goods
✗ Chocolate, ice-cream and cakes made with butter
✗ Coconut oil.
There is also Egg-cellent news for egg lovers! The latest research suggests most people can enjoy as many eggs as they like. If you have type 2 diabetes, heart disease or high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, however, the Heart Foundation recommends eating no more than seven eggs per week.
Want dietitian-approved, cholesterol-lowering snacks? Try these ideas for good heart health:
➜ Small handful of raw, unsalted nuts
➜ Small can of reduced-salt baked beans
➜ Piece of fresh fruit
➜ Raw vegie sticks with hoummos
➜ Small tub of plain, reduced-fat yoghurt with fresh berries
➜ Regular skim latte
➜ Smoothie made from frozen fruit and plant sterol-enriched milk.
And don’t forget to eat oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) at least two times a week, preferably three times and to get moving! Any physical activity that makes you huff and puff is great for improving your heart health.
Looking into improving your heart health? The Healthy Food Guide Cholesterol Toolkit is a complete guide to keeping your heart in tune by improving your cholesterol profile.