Winter is not just cold and flu season. Unfortunately it is a time of year when hospital admissions increase by at least one third due to a wide variety of issues. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and is estimated to affect at least two in three families. Now is also a good time of year to look at how food can help keep the heart healthy and strong.
Two key factors shown to predispose people to heart disease are high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Nutrition and the foods we choose to eat can go a long way towards reducing ones risk of developing either of these, but if you do have one of both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, there are some diets that are targeted at treating them. And guess what?–They work.
Experts in the USA have rated the DASH diet as the most heart healthy diet and research shows the Portfolio diet is as effective as statin medication in improving cholesterol. So what are they?
The DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains (such as barley, quinoa, oat and whole wheat products) and reduced fat dairy products. It also includes legumes and nuts and moderate amounts of lean animal protein while limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat, added fat and added salt. The main emphasis is fruit, vegetables, legumes and unprocessed grains.
The Portfolio diet also finds its foundation in a low saturated fat, high fibre, low salt diet as well as being rich in fruit and vegetables, then add 4 other key features.
- Plant sterols – help to block cholesterol absorption, thus lowering cholesterol
- Soy protein
- Viscous fibre
The Portfolio diet specifically recommends having:
- 2g of plant sterols per day. This can come from one mini yoghurt drink or a combination of plant sterol spread (e.g. flora proactive or logicol – you’ve seen the adds) 1 glass of fortified milk and 1 forified yoghurt (Heart Active products)
- 50g of soya protein daily. This can come from soy milk or yoghurt, tofu, soya beans, soy and linseed bread or edamame beans
- At least 20g of soluble fibre per day coming from oats, barley, legumes , psyllium husk and fruits and vegetables
- 30g of nuts every day (for their healthy fats and fibre)
Newer research suggests combining the Portfolio diet to higher intakes of monounsaturated fats such as olive oil for added benefits.
The great news is that both these diets are excellent eating plans to follow for all people, even if you do not have heart disease yourself. So this month take a look at your regular intake and see if you need to add a few more vegetables, nuts and legumes to help your heart.