Heart Health Blogs
Good food for your heart: The healthiest supermarket shopping list
A healthy diet is just one of the ways we can support our heart health. While it won’t come as a shock to learn that most fruits and vegetables contain vitamins that can help reduce the risks of developing heart disease1, there are some surprises on the supermarket shelves that can contribute to a healthy heart too.
Take this shopping list the next time you go to the supermarket to find food that’s good for your heart.
In the fruit and veggie section
From the moment you walk into the supermarket, you’re in the best place to find food that’s good for your heart. Vegetables are a win for a healthy heart, and yet less than one in 10 Australians are eating the recommended daily amount2. Almost all are fat-free and contain many of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to maintain good health.
Cruciferous vegetables – Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy are all part of a family of veggies that contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical that can protect arteries against cardiovascular disease by preventing atherosclerosis – a build-up of plaque3,4.
Use these in a stir-fry, a salad, or as a healthy side. Remember, steaming or baking veg avoids adding oils or sauces that may contain high amounts of sodium and fat, and many can even be eaten raw.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach are often top of the list when you’re looking for foods that are good for heart health. Spinach is a good source of potassium, which contributes to healthy heart function, but also contains organic nitrate, which can help lower blood pressure.
A handful of leafy greens will bulk up a salad or try blending a bag of spinach with passata for a pasta sauce packed with added nutrients.
While most fruits eaten in moderation will have benefits for heart health, some pack a bigger punch.
Pomegranates contain a micronutrient that can help prevent fatty build-up in our arteries5. Rich in potassium, pomegranates may also help control blood pressure. Use the seeds in salads or mixed with natural yoghurt for a snack.
Berries – rich in antioxidants, berries may help prevent cell damage6. Eat in their purest form – so fresh or frozen are better than dried or juiced – to get the maximum amount of vitamins and nutrients. Eat fresh as a snack or throw a handful into a morning smoothie.
Avocado – A firm favourite with Aussies, a US study showed that eating two serves (one serve = ½ avo or 80g) of avo every week could reduce the risk of heart attack by 21%7. Use in salads or instead of butter which is 96% higher in saturated fat8.
Most fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious in their frozen form as fresh and are often cheaper to buy9. Frozen fruit is delicious in a smoothie or with natural yoghurt as a healthy dessert and frozen veg work well in a stew, casserole, or soup.
In the pantry aisles
Wholegrain foods that are good for your heart, such as brown rice and pasta, oats, and grainy bread, contain fibre that can help keep cholesterol low10. They’re also lower in refined sugar than their white counterparts.
When in doubt – go brown. Simply swap out white for brown when making a rice or pasta-based dish and opt for morning oats over a high-sugar cereal.
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are all good sources of plant-based protein. Unlike animal-based protein, plant-based alternatives are higher in vitamins and lower in fat, so better for your heart11. They are great in salads, stews, or soups.
The meat and fish section
Eating red meat increases the risks of heart disease, but there are still ways to make healthier choices. One 2021 study indicated that while processed red meat, such as ham, bacon, and sausages, increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 18%, unprocessed versions, such as beef, lamb or pork only upped the risk by 9%12.
If you want to play it safe, chicken, turkey, and fish are all healthier proteins for good heart health, as they are all significantly lower in saturated fat and sodium, both risk factors for heart disease.
Oily fish that contain long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may be especially good for preventing heart disease, even in high-risk persons13. As well as reducing fat in your blood, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure, slow the build-up of plaque, and regulate heart rhythms14. Good sources include salmon, trout, and sardines. Grill or bake meat or fish rather than pan or deep frying to avoid adding unnecessary oil and fat.
In the “treats” aisle
Even our “sometimes” foods can be good for heart health.
Number one is chocolate. Thanks to the presence of flavanols in cocoa, a small amount of dark chocolate may help reduce high blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart, and prevent clots15. The key here is moderation to prevent excessive weight gain16.
A few small squares a day of chocolate with 70-89% cocoa is generally considered good for overall health17.
While it’s best to avoid the highly salted/sugared/buttered variety at the movies, in its natural form popcorn is wholegrain and high in fibre. Wholegrain, fibrous foods are good for heart health in that they can help lower cholesterol, which can reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease18. Try adding a handful of air-popped, lightly seasoned popcorn to your next snack pack.
Talk to your GP about local and national resources that can help you improve your heart health and help prevent heart disease.
Learn More: The different types of heart diseases
Related Article: Healthy hearts: How to support a partner with poor heart health
Disclaimer: This information is of a general nature. A dietician can help develop a plan for your individual needs or talk to your GP about local and national resources that can help you improve your heart health and help prevent heart disease.