Healthy Eating: Eating Heart-Healthy Foods
Healthy Eating: Eating Heart-Healthy Foods
How to eat a heart-healthy diet
To have a
- Eat fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruit and vegetable servings every day.
Dark green, deep orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are especially
nutritious. Examples include spinach, carrots, peaches, and
- Eat a variety of grain products every day. Include whole-grain foods that have lots of
fiber and nutrients. Examples of whole grains include
oats, whole wheat bread, and brown rice.
- Eat fish at least 2 times each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty
acids, are best for your heart. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake
trout, herring, and sardines.
- Limit saturated fat and cholesterol. To limit
saturated fat and
cholesterol, try to choose the following foods:
- Lean meats and meat alternatives like beans or
- Fish, vegetables, beans, and nuts
- Nonfat and
low-fat dairy products
- Polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats,
like canola and olive oils, to replace saturated fats, such as butter
- Read food labels and limit the amount of trans fat you eat. Trans fat raises the levels of LDL ("bad")
cholesterol and also lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good")
cholesterol in the blood. Trans fat is found in many processed foods made with
shortening or with partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils. These
foods include cookies, crackers, chips, and many snack foods.
- Choose healthy fats. Unsaturated fats, such
as olive, canola, corn, and sunflower oils, are part of a healthy diet. But all
fats are high in calories, so watch your serving sizes.
- Limit salt (sodium). For good health, less is best. This is especially important for people who are at risk for or already have high blood pressure. If you are African-American, have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, or are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of salt you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day. If none of those things describe you, try to limit sodium to 2,300 mg a day. Choose and prepare foods
with little or no salt. Watch for
hidden sodium in foods.
- Eat only as many calories as you need to stay at a healthy weight. Learn
how much is a serving, and then check your portion sizes. Limit drinks with
added sugar. If you want to lose weight, increase
your activity level to burn more calories than you eat.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Limit alcohol
intake to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. See a picture of
a standard drink .
- Limit added sugar. Limit
drinks and foods with added sugar.
- When you are eating away from
home, try to follow these heart-healthy diet tips.
You can get even more benefit from making diet changes if
you also get plenty of exercise and don't smoke.
Start with small changes
But you don't
have to be perfect, and you don't have to do it all at once. Make one or two
changes at a time. As soon as you are used to those, make another one or two
changes. Over time, making a number of small changes can add up and make a big
difference in your health.
Here are some ideas about how to get
- Choose whole-grain bread instead of white
- Have a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar.
Try to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Add one or
two servings of fruits and vegetables to your day. Slowly add more servings
until you are eating at least 5 servings a day.
- Switch from 2% or
whole milk to 1% or nonfat milk.
- Instead of meat, have fish for
dinner. Brush it with olive oil, and broil or grill it.
from butter to a cholesterol-lowering soft spread. Use olive or canola oil for
- Use herbs and spices, instead of salt, to add flavor to
- Modify your favorite recipes so they have less fat and calories but still taste good.
It may take some time to get used to new tastes and habits,
but don't give up. Keep in mind the good things you are doing for your heart
and your overall health.
Test Your Knowledge
All fats are bad for me.
Continue to Where to go from here
Return to Healthy Eating: Eating Heart-Healthy Foods
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Colleen Gobert, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian
March 22, 2012
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