Forget fad diets, healthy eating is a pattern. It's about how you eat over days, weeks and even months. Healthy eating patterns don't focus on one type of food or one type of nutrient to promote heart health. Heart-healthy eating relies on a combination of foods, chosen regularly, over time.
This style of eating is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar. And it's rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats.
HEART HEALTHY FOODS
We recommend you focus on eating the following foods for heart health.
1. Fruit, Vegetables and Wholegrains
These foods are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains is consistently linked to people having healthier hearts. And research shows there is a link between eating them and having a lower risk of heart disease.
2. Healthy Protein Foods
Healthy eating patterns include a variety of healthy protein sources, especially fish and seafood, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in healthy eating pattern. If you choose to eat red meat, make sure the meat is lean and limit to 1-3 times a week. These foods are good sources of macro and micronutrients such as proteins, iron, zinc and vitamins, particularly the vitamin B group.
3. Unflavoured Milk, Yoghurt and Cheese
Unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese can be part of a healthy eating pattern. These are important sources of calcium, protein and other vitamins and minerals. People who have high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties. Many of the reduced fat versions are lower in kilojoules than the full fat varieties for those trying to reduce their kilojoule intake. Unflavoured milk yoghurt and cheese are healthy snack choices in preference to discretionary foods and can contribute to healthy meals when eaten with fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.
4. Healthy Fat Choices
Use nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking. Unsalted nuts and seeds contribute unsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6) to our diets. These include nuts and linseed, chia or tahini, and avocados. Use cooking oils made from plants or seeds like olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, soybean, rice bran, sesame and safflower.
These types of fats help reduce 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) and increase 'good' cholesterol (HDL), reducing the risk of heart disease.
5. Herbs and Spices Instead of Salt
Use herbs and spices to flavour foods instead of adding salt when you're cooking. Australians consume around nine grams of salt per day on average. We recommend you consume less than five grams a day. A diet high in salt increases your risk of hypertension and heart disease. A healthy eating pattern, based on the previous four principles, will be naturally lower in salt.
Drink water every day. Water is the best drink to choose. It's cheap, quenches your thirst and has no kilojoules. When it comes to alcohol, healthy men and women are advised to drink no more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day. If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, liver disease or diabetes, or if you are obese, you may need to drink less than the above-recommended limits.
HEART HEALTHY COOKING
There are two easy ways to change your favourite recipes to be healthier:
try healthier cooking methods
reduce, replace or remove the less healthy ingredients.
Try these alternatives, tips and tricks for healthier cooking.
HEALTHIER COOKING METHODS
This is one of the easiest ways to cook vegetables.
Bring a small amount of water to the boil in a saucepan. Add prepared vegetables in a steam basket, and place in saucepan. Cover with a lid and steam until vegetables are just tender.
To add extra flavour drizzle with olive oil and your favourite herbs or squeeze with lemon juice instead of adding salt.
A great way to cook delicate foods like eggs, fish or fruit in a small amount of hot water or liquid, which can be flavoured by herbs, spices, reduced salt stocks or vinegar.
Instead of deep frying, roast in the oven on a lined tray or grill tray.
Lightly steam or microwave food before roasting.
Brush food with canola, sunflower, soybean or olive oil to make it crisp.
If you do decide to deep-fry, choose olive oil or high oleic canola oil and discard the oil after cooking.
Stir-fry food using olive, canola, sunflower, soybean or peanut oil.
Try adding lots of fresh vegetables to your stir-fry dishes.
Choose lean cuts of meat or trim all visible fat before cooking.
Put meat on a rack in a baking dish with 1 to 2 cm water. Add herbs to the water for extra flavour.
Brush meat with a marinade to stop it drying out. Try covering it with a lid or aluminium foil for part of the cooking time.
Roast meat on a spit or rotisserie and let the fat drip away.
Brush or spray vegetables with olive or high oleic canola oil, and bake them in a separate pan from meat.
Trim fat off meat before cooking.
Add legumes for extra fibre and flavour (e.g. kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans or lentils).
Use reduced salt stock.
After cooking, chill the food so the fat becomes solid on the surface. Skim the fat off before reheating.
Try these tips and healthier replacements for common ingredients.
Milk / Yoghurt / Cream
Use unflavoured varieties.
If you have high blood cholesterol, use a reduced fat variety.
Use ricotta cheese whipped with a little icing sugar, fruit or milk instead of cream.
Replace sour cream with one of these options:
cottage cheese blended with milk - add a little lemon juice or vinegar to make it more ‘sour’ (acidic) if you like.
evaporated milk mixed with lemon juice.
Use a small amount of grated parmesan cheese instead of grated cheddar – it gives more flavour and you don’t need to use as much.
Mix grated cheese with oats, bread crumbs or wheat germ to make toppings for casseroles, gratins and baked dishes.
Butter / Margarine
Try avocado, tahini, hummus and nut butters in place of butter
Avoid using butter, other dairy blends, lard, copha or cooking fats.
If using a margarine, look for those made from canola, sunflower or olive oils. Read the label and pick one that has less than 20g saturated fat per 100g, less than 0.5g trans fat ) and less than 400mg sodium per 100g
Note: reduced fat or ‘lite’ spreads generally aren’t good for cooking.
Choose the oil depending on the cooking method and flavour you are after.
For low temperature cooking such as salad dressings, sauces and stir-frying, choose an oil with less than 20g of saturated fat per 100g (read the label). Choose sesame, peanut, olive, safflower, canola, avocado oil.
For high temperature cooking, choose olive oils (including extra virgin olive oil) or high oleic canola oil. These oils are more stable at high temperatures.
Keep oils away from heat and direct light.
Don’t re-use cooking oils after heating.
Mayonnaise / Dressing
Use salad dressings and mayonnaise made from canola, sunflower, soybean and olive oil.
Make your own salad dressing and mayonnaise. Use ingredients such as yoghurt, buttermilk, tomato paste, balsamic or other kinds of vinegar, lemon juice, ricotta cheese, mustard or fruit pulp.
Cake / Biscuit Ingredients
Cook with spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil instead of butter.
Cook with canola, sunflower or olive oil.
The minimum fat required for biscuits is about 2 tablespoons per cup of flour – this will keep biscuits crisp.
Make plain sponges, yeast cakes, bread, muffins and scones because they generally use less fat.
Use wholegrain or wholemeal flour to add some extra fibre.
Use filo pastry. Brush every three to four layers with olive oil, egg white or reduced fat yoghurt.
Use pastry made with olive oil.
Coconut Cream/Coconut Milk
Add a little coconut essence to evaporated milk.
Use evaporated milk already flavoured with coconut essence.
Soak desiccated coconut in warm milk for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture, discard the coconut and use the milk.
Occasionally, use a reduced fat coconut milk.
Nuts and Seeds
Use to add texture and flavour and healthy fat sources to your favourite dishes.
Sprinkle on breakfast cereal, yoghurt and add to stir-fry's and salads.
Use freshly made nut milk such as almond milk.
Swap white grain ingredients to wholegrain varieties like wholegrain breads, brown rice and pasta or quinoa.
Do you need some inspiration in the kitchen? The Heart Foundation has dozens of heart healthy recipes available here.
* This article was created using information from the Heart Foundation Website.
For more information on healthy cooking we recommend making an appointment with our Dietitian. Call 5456 1599 to make an appointment.