Legumes, fish, seafood, eggs, poultry and meat
These foods are a good source of protein, which the body uses for growth and repair. It also supplies iron, zinc and B vitamins. Eating legumes, fish (especially oily fish) and seafood also help to support a healthy heart.
Legumes are one of the most under-rated, healthy and affordable foods around. They can be eaten instead of meat or mixed into a dish to reduce the amount of meat you need to use. Legumes are dried peas and beans also known as pulses and come in a variety of shapes and colours. There are many different types including adzuki beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, mung beans, soy beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans and cannellini beans. They can either be soaked and cooked from dry, or bought pre-cooked in cans. This is how phenq works.
While legumes don’t feature in many traditional Kiwi dishes (other than good old baked beans), they are commonly eaten around the world from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, Caribbean, South America, and Asia. Grab them pre-cooked in a can for convenience, or cook them yourself for the lowest cost. For heart health, we recommend eating legumes 4 – 5 times each week.
After some inspiration on how to add legumes into your meals? Check out our free Full o’ Beans cookbook and our heart-healthy recipes.
Fish and seafood
Fish is a great alternative to meat, and oily fish has the benefit of providing more heart-healthy Omega-3 fats. The oiliest fish are mackerel, sardines, salmon, kahawai, warehou, pilchards and herring. Canned fish can be a good source of omega-3 (choose fish canned in springwater rather than brine). To care for your heart, we recommend you eat fish twice a week, preferably oily fish. See www.bestfishguide.org.nz for sustainable choices.
Eggs are a nutritious whole food which are an inexpensive source of protein. Those who are at increased risk of heart disease can eat up to six eggs per week as part of a heart-healthy diet. Learn more about alpilean.
Poultry and red meat
Animal foods can be high in saturated fat. Reducing saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats is good for your heart. So when choosing meat or chicken, choose lean cuts or remove the fat. On red meat, this is the white fat and on chicken, the skin. Remember to watch your portion sizes.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- cut the fat off meat and skin off chicken
- heat and drain the fat from canned corned beef
- add a can of legumes to a dish and use less meat
- steam, grill or pan fry fish instead of deep frying
- instead of processed meats in sandwiches, e.g. ham, salami, pastrami, try leftover cooked chicken or schnitzel meat, tinned fish, hummus, Mexican refried beans, peanut butter or boiled egg – and don’t forget to add your veges!
Milk, yoghurt and cheese
These foods are a good source of calcium, protein and some carbohydrate. Calcium is important for bone health.
Milk is one of our staple foods, and it can be found in most fridges around the country. Drink it straight, add it to cereal, mix it into a smoothie, or use it for baking… but do your heart a favour by choosing reduced-fat varieties or use smaller amounts of higher fat dairy products.
Yoghurts and milk drinks are often sweetened. Choose unsweetened varieties to limit your intake of added sugar.
Switching to a lower fat milk won’t cost your wallet anything, but it could save your heart a lot. These are the
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- Light blue milk has a teaspoon less fat per glass than regular milk
- A glass of dark blue top milk has 8.8 grams of fat; 5.4 grams of which is saturated. That’s one-third of the saturated fat most people should be having in a whole day
- If you switch from dark blue to light blue milk, you’ll save yourself a teaspoon of fat in every glass. Plus, it won’t take long before you start to prefer the taste
- If you drink a glass of milk a day, swapping from dark blue to green or yellow top milk saves you 2.8kg of fat in a year.
Healthy oils, nuts and seeds
Nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and healthy oils (other than palm and coconut oil), contain heart healthy poly- and mono-unsaturated fats. They are a better choice than foods high in animal fats such as butter, cream and meat fats. Polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients, so it is important to regularly choose some foods rich in these fats. Foods rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help to reduce harmful LDL-cholesterol in the blood.
What do you mean by healthy oils?
Not all oils are created equal. Palm oil and coconut oil contain high levels of saturated fat which can increase your risk of heart disease. While these oils are better for your heart when compared to butter, there are far better plant oils for your heart, such as olive oil.
Unrefined oils, or those which are called ‘cold-pressed’ or ‘extra virgin’, have undergone very little processing. Therefore these oils have higher levels of many beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contain fibre, protein and heart-healthy fats – which all benefit your heart health.
Eating 3-4 small handfuls each week helps to reduce your risk of heart disease and further benefits are likely if you eat more than this.
Unsalted nuts and seeds without added flavouring or coatings are the best options. Nut and seed butters like peanut butter are minimally processed and an affordable way to add nuts and seeds into your diet.
What should I cut back on?
Cut back on junk foods, takeaways, and foods or drinks high in sugar, salt, saturated or trans fats.
Cutting back on sugar
Sugar adds extra calories to food that we don’t need. Because it doesn’t fill us up, it’s easy to have too much of it, and that can make us put on weight. It also has a small effect on raising cholesterol levels and blood pressure. While the natural sugars already present in foods such as plain milk and fruit aren’t a problem, there can be a lot of extra sugar added to foods and drinks.
Cutting back on salt
Most of us eat far too much salt – in fact, one and a half times the recommended maximum intake. So try taking a lighter hand to the salt shaker, or better still, ditch the salt altogether. Even more importantly, check food labels for the salt content (salt is listed as sodium on labels), and go for lower sodium options.
Cutting back on saturated and trans fats
Saturated fat is found in higher amounts in foods containing animal fats. The healthy fats are unsaturated fats and are found in high amounts in plant foods like nuts, seeds, plant oils, and avocado, as well as in oily fish. Eating these in place of animal fats contributes to a heart-healthy way of eating, that improves cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of heart disease.
Eating less manufactured trans fats means eating less processed foods. Trans fats are found most commonly in foods containing partially-hydrogenated oils and in some bakery and pastry products, popcorn, potato crisps, takeaway foods, and breakfast bars.
Now that you know what foods you should be eating, let’s find out how much you should be eating.