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Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet
A heart-healthy lifestyle is not about deprivation. It is about eating more—more fruits, more vegetables, more whole grains, and more unsaturated fats. When you focus on putting more of these nutrient-rich foods in your diet, there is naturally less room for the not-so-heart-friendly foods—those high in saturated fat and low in nutrients.
Healthy eating habits can help you reduce 3 of the major risk factors for heart attack:
So how does this translate into your grocery list and onto your dinner plate? To help you eat the heart healthy way, The American Heart Association has created some guidelines. Follow these dietary guidelines to improve and/or maintain your heart health:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 4-5 servings each day.
- Eat a variety of fiber-rich whole grains. Eat at least 6 servings of grains a day. Aim to make half your grains whole grains.
- Include protein, such as fat-free and low-fat milk products, fish, legumes, beans, skinless poultry, and lean, white meats. Limit red meats and processed meat. For nuts, legumes, and seeds, eat at least 4-5 servings a week. For lean meats, poultry, and seafood, eat less than 6 ounces a day. When eating fish, choose oily fish, like salmon.
- Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and/or cholesterol, such as full-fat milk or other dairy products, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and egg yolks. Instead choose foods low in saturated fat, and cholesterol from the first 3 points above. Try to eliminate intake of trans fats, which are found in snack foods, fried foods, and pastries.
- Limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition, including foods like soft drinks and candy that have a lot of sugars. For sweets and items with added sugar, stick to 5 or fewer servings per week.
- Eat less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. Read food labels to look for hidden salt, which may appear as sodium.
- Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day if you're a woman and no more than two if you're a man.
Note: Recommendations based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
American Heart Association
US Department of Agriculture
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada
Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115449/Dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention. Updated May 23, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2017.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Updated December 2015. Accessed July 13, 2017.
Greene CM, Fernandez ML. The role of nutrition in the prevention of coronary heart disease in women of the developed world. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(1):1-9.
Nutrition basics. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Nutrition-Basics%5FUCM%5F461228%5FArticle.jsp#.WWdkQYTytxA. Updated May 19, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2015.
6/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116156/Coronary-artery-disease-CAD: Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A. Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:562-571.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 07/2017
- Update Date: 07/13/2017