Healthy Eating for the Heart

Written by Victoria Laios, APD

A healthy heart is important, to maintain good overall health and also reduce your risk of developing Heart Disease. Heart Disease is a condition that affects around 1.4 million Australians and is the single leading cause of death in Australia [1]. It is the most common form of cardiovascular disease and is becoming an ongoing economic burden to our society [1].

Heart Disease occurs when your arteries and blood vessels become narrowed, due to the build-up of plaque (fatty deposits) in the walls.  Overtime, this plaque build-up reduces blood flow to the heart which can cause angina (chest pain). If a blood clot forms and becomes stuck in the blood vessel, this can cause a heart attack. As Heart Disease rates are on the rise, this blog will outline how you can reduce your overall risk.

Cholesterol and triglycerides

So why do I mention cholesterol and triglycerides?….Cholesterol and triglycerides are naturally found in our blood and their levels can be an indicator of Heart Disease risk.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver. Too much cholesterol in our blood can cause fatty deposits to build-up in our blood vessels. This makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body and increases our risk of heart disease or stroke. There are two types of cholesterol in our blood:

  • LDL Cholesterol – “bad” cholesterol which increase our risk of heart disease.
  • HDL Cholesterol – “good” cholesterol which reduce our risk of heart disease 

Triglycerides are another bad fat found in the blood. Having too much triglycerides in the blood increases the risk of Heart Disease. Triglycerides can be reduced by – limiting sugary foods and drinks, as well as consuming dietary fat and alcohol in moderation.

Different types of fat found in our food

To reduce our risk of Heart Disease, we also need to understand the different types of fat found in our food. The table below outlines the different fats and their food sources:

Fats that are harmful to heart health INCREASE “LDL” blood cholesterolSaturated fat (animal products)Butter, cream, deli meats, cheese, cakes, pastries, deep-fried foods, chocolate, crisps, coconut and palm oil
Trans fatty acids (hydrogenated vegetable oils)Mainly found in processed foods (pies, cakes, biscuits and donuts)
Fats that are protective for heart healthLOWER “LDL” blood cholesterolINCREASE our “HDL” blood cholesterol Monounsaturated fatsNuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews) AvocadoPlant oils (canola, olive and peanut)
Polyunsaturated fats and  Omega-3 Fatty Acids (found in plant and marine foods)Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts)Sunflower and soybean oilSeeds (chia, sunflower and flaxseeds)TahiniOily fish (salmon, sardines, tuna, flathead)

How to reduce your risk of developing Heart Disease

The National Heart Foundation has developed some recommendations to reduce the risk of developing Heart Disease. If heart health is an issue for you, consider the following:

  1. Eat a diet low fat, especially saturated fat – replacing these foods with those containing mono- and poly- unsaturated fats. 
  2. Consume oily fish 2-3 times a week – fish is a good source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which helps to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  3. Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods and include high fibre foods into your diet – wholegrain products, fruit, vegetables and legumes. These foods contain soluble fibre, which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.
  4. Reducing your intake of sugar and salt – too much salt can harden the arteries and increase blood pressure.
  5. Moderating your alcohol intake – alcohol can increase blood pressure, triglycerides and lead to weight gain. 
  6. Achieve and maintain healthy weight 
  7. Be physically active – exercise has many positive benefits. It improves cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels, helps in weight management and lowers stress.
  8. Stop smoking 

There you have it. Some tips on how to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of developing Heart Disease. It is important to engage in a healthy lifestyle, and make positive behaviour changes to improve your well-being. For more information and Resources, visit the Heart Foundation webpage on


  1. National Heart Foundation. Heart Disease in Australia [internet webpage] Australia: [cited 23 Mar 2016]. Available: