Many people think of rice, potatoes and pasta as ‘carbs’ but that’s only a few of the huge range of foods that contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are present in all fruit and vegetables, breads and grain products, and sugar and sugary foods.
Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy. Typically carbohydrates can be categorised as either simple sugars or complex starchy carbohydrates.
Sugar in food and drinks can be naturally occurring, like in fruit and dairy products. It can also be added during processing. Most ‘added’ or ‘free’ sugar in the Australian diet comes from foods like cakes, biscuits, pastries and sugary drinks. Some healthy foods contain added sugars for flavour or helping preserve the product or hold its shape (e.g. flavoured yoghurt and some breakfast cereals).
There’s no scientific consensus that sugar as a nutrient causes heart disease. But too much of anything, like sugar, can increase the amount of energy (kilojoules) consumed which can increase the risk of weight gain. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of heart disease.
Healthy eating patterns – what to choose
Choose the healthier carbohydrates like fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain breads, wholegrain cereals and pastas.
Limit foods high in added sugars like cakes, confectionary, biscuits and sugary drinks. These foods should only be eaten sometimes and in small amounts.
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.
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.
Healthy protein foods – This includes fish and seafood, eggs, lean meat and poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods are good sources of macro and micronutrients such as proteins, iron, zinc and vitamins, particularly the vitamin B group.
Reduced-fat dairy – Eat reduced fat dairy foods such as unflavoured milk and yoghurt, and cheese. These are important sources of calcium, protein and other vitamins and minerals. Eating reduced fat dairy foods with no added sugar can help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
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. The same goes for cooking oils made from plants or seeds like olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, soybean, rice bran, sesame and safflower. These types of fats help to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and increase ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), reducing the risk of heart disease.
Drink water every day. Water is the best drink to choose. It’s cheap, quenches your thirst and has no kilojoules.