Heart Health and the low FODMAP diet

Posted on September 30, 2021

What is World Heart Day?

Yesterday, the 29th September marked World Heart Day for 2021. World Heart Day aims to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) including heart disease and stroke. The global campaign aims to educate and drive change in our community through informing people of simple changes that can be made to improve heart health such as reducing tobacco use, eating a healthy diet and keeping physically active. CVD is currently the world’s leading cause of death claiming 17.9 million lives each year. (World Heart Federation, 2021)

What is Good Heart Health?

Heart health is something that can be maintained throughout your whole life by living a healthy lifestyle such as eating a varied diet, being active and reducing or eliminating tobacco use. The heart, like other muscles in the body can be strengthened through exercise. Simply just moving more and sitting less in your day can have positive effects on your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, indicators of your heart health. (Heart Foundation) Smoking is harmful for heart health as it damages blood vessels to your heart and brain making you 4 times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke. This risk decreases almost instantly when smoking is eliminated. (Heart Foundation) Keeping an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol can also indicate your current heart health.

Good heart health and diet?

Diets high in nutrients and low in saturated fats have been shown to be the best for heart health. This type of diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and healthy fats such as omega 3’s and omega 6’s which are found in fish and nuts. Using a variety of herbs and spices, rather than salt in your meals can also decrease your chance of developing high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. (Heart Foundation)

It is important not to label food groups as bad when it comes to heart health.  However, high amounts of saturated fats found in animal products can lead to elevated blood cholesterol and contribute to blocked arteries. Animal foods such as fatty beef, processed meats, vegetable oils and coconut oils and creams are sources of saturated fats. Dairy products and eggs are both okay to consume for optimal heart health. For those already experiencing heart disease, consuming less than 7 eggs per week and sticking to low fat milk is recommended. Eating fish, particularly those high in omega 3 such as tuna and salmon can help lower cholesterol and blood clotting risk. Aiming for 4 to 5 serves of vegetables and eating more soluble fibre such as oats and bran can help to lower your cholesterol. (Heart Research Australia).

Can you have heart issues and IBS?

It is possible to have both heart issues and IBS, 15% of Australians suffer from IBS and an estimated 5.6% of Australians over the age of 18 have a condition related to heart disease. (AIHW, 2020) Stomach pain and gastrointestinal issues can occur due to heart disease. Often gastrointestinal symptoms occur due to the heart having difficulty pumping blood throughout the body. As circulation slows, the body becomes more acidic causing body systems such as the digestive tract to not function properly. (Premier- Heart and Vein Centre, 2021)

Low FODMAP Diet and Heart issues

Following the low FODMAP diet while managing heart issues can be beneficial (if required) as low FODMAP diets include many foods low in saturated fat and high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The low FODMAP diet is also high in potassium and low in wheat, which is beneficial for blood pressure and blood glucose control. When consuming a low FODMAP diet and eating for heart health, it is important to reduce all IBS triggers such as high carbohydrate foods containing wheat, high fructan foods such as garlic and onion, high lactose foods such as cow’s milk and excess fructose foods such honey and apples. Polyols such as Sorbitol and Mannitol found in artificial sweeteners and some fruit and vegetables (eg. stone fruits, mushrooms, cauliflower) and are also high FODMAP. Foods which should be specifically reduced for both heart health and IBS alleviation include high fat foods such as French fries, processed meats and milk chocolate due to their saturated fat content. Foods such as potato chips and salted nuts should also be avoided due to their high sodium content. Although good for heart health, most legumes and pulses would need to be reduced due to their high fructan and GOS (Galacto-Oligosaccharide) content. Low FODMAP White Zucchini Hotpot and Low FODMAP Rosemary and Lemon Roast Chicken are great examples of meals which are both low in FODMAP products and low in saturated fat and sodium.

FODMAP Friendly Certified Products that are suitable

The Good Chocolate Signature Dark Zero Sugar Mini Bars – Low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium, No artificial sweeteners or soy, no cholesterol.

Liddells Lactose Free Low Fat Milk- 99% Fat free, Lactose Free, Naturally gluten free, No preservatives.

Uncle Toby’s Oats Quick Sachets Original 340g– Naturally low in saturated fat, sugar and sodium, contain beta glucan-helps to lower cholesterol reabsorption.

For more options of low FODMAP foods download the FODMAP Friendly App, available for Apple /iPhones and Android.

In summary

Optimal Heart health can be achieved while consuming a low FODMAP diet by making simple and small lifestyle changes. Even just going for a short walk each day can improve your heart health. The main things to remember when considering heart health on the Low FODMAP diet include monitoring or reducing amounts of foods high in saturated fats and sodium, whilst consuming plenty of low FODMAP fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. Look out for foods high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids such as fish and nuts.  For more information about eating a heart healthy and low FODMAP diet, speak to your Doctor and FODMAP-trained Dietitian.

Written by: Ryan Day, Nutritionist
Reviewed by: Kiarra Martindale (Accredited Practising Dietitian)

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