Loving Heart Health

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Did you know that diabetes puts you at greater risk of heart disease, even if you have ‘normal’ looking cholesterol and no symptoms.  This is because diabetes can cause damage to your blood vessels.

Heart attacks and strokes are up to four times more likely in people with diabetes, so this Heart Health Week  provides a great opportunity to re-evaluate how we can give our hearts a little extra love.

Fibre rich foods

Looking after our heart health is not about depriving our bodies or cutting out foods. There are actually foods that we want to have more of to boost our heart health. Foods rich in soluble fibre for example can help naturally lower total cholesterol levels. Such foods include fruit, vegetables, legumes (pulses) like kidney beans, baked beans, lentils and chickpeas, oats (porridge), barley and psyllium husks.

By starting your day with a small bowl of porridge, snacking on two serves of fruit over the day, then adding extra veggies and legumes to your stews, soups, salads or pasta sauces, you are on track to getting a good dose of daily soluble fibre.

What is fibre

Fibre in food comes from the edible parts of plants. There are three different types of fibre – soluble, insoluble and resistant starch. All varieties of fibre are important for health.

When increasing your soluble fibre it’s important to balance this with other types of fibre by including foods like wholegrains, nuts, seeds and wheat bran. The balance of fibre will help keep your digestive system regular.

If you are planning to increase your fibre remember to increase it gradually and with plenty of water. The water will help soften your stools and prevent constipation.

It is generally recommended for women to aim for 28g total fibre/day and men 38g total fibre/ day. This is not just for our heart but also for general health. This may sound like a lot but with some simple swaps you can easily boost your intake. Higher fibre meals will also help leave you feeling fuller for longer and help manage your blood glucose levels (BGLs). Win, win!

Swap this for that to boost fibre intake



Swap this… (which has this much fibre) For this … (which has this much fibre)
Eggs on two slices of white toast 1.9g Eggs on two slices of wholegrain bread, grilled tomato and mushrooms 6.4g
A bowl of corn flakes and milk 3.6g A bowl of porridge topped with a small handful of nuts and strawberries. 6.1g
Glass of orange juice and vegemite on toast 1.5g Avocado on grain toast with a whole orange 7.5g


Swap this… (which has this much fibre) For this … (which has this much fibre)
White bread chicken sandwich 1.9g Grain bread sandwich with chicken and salad 5.1g
Chicken noodle soup 3.3g Pumpkin soup 4.6g
Tuna salad 1.6g Tuna salad with chickpeas 4.0g


Swap this… (which has this much fibre) For this … (which has this much fibre)
Spaghetti Bolognese 4.8g Spaghetti Bolognese (made by reducing beef portion and adding lentils and high       fibre pasta) Plus a side salad 8.2g
Steak and chips 2.4g Steak, baked potato and a handful size of other veggies 5.8g
Homemade burger with meat patty, cheese and lettuce 2.3g Homemade burger made on a grain roll with extra salad and meat patty made with added grated carrot and zucchini. 5.5g


Calculations made using FoodWorks 8 software.

Final words

There are other healthy food changes you can make to support your heart health, in addition to boosting your fibre intake.

  • Limit foods high in saturated or TRANS fat such as fatty meats, chicken with the skin, butter, lard or ghee, pastries, cakes and fast food or take away.
  • Include foods rich in healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fat) such as avocado, nuts and seeds and most plant-based oils such as olive oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil and macadamia oil.
  • Aim to include two to three serves of oily fish over the week. Some examples of oily fish include tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines.
  • Choose fresh, less processed foods where possible. Limit high salt foods such as processed/packaged foods, canned products or sauces where possible. If selecting these go for those that say ‘low in salt’ or ‘no added salt’
  • Incorporate flavours from herbs, spices, lemon or lime juice, vinegar and garlic rather than adding salt to cooking.

Speak to your Accredited Practising Dietitian for more ideas or inspiration.

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