American Heart Association's Heart-Healthy Diet

If you are seeking a diet to improve your health, reduce your risk of heart disease or treat conditions such as congestive heart failure, the American Heart Association is a great resource to turn to. You will find information on making lifestyle changes and incorporating a heart-healthy diet into your daily routine.

  1. History

    • The American Heart Association (AHA) is a voluntary health agency committed to improving the health of the country through healthy lifestyle change. The main focus of the organization is to reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the occurrence of stroke. As part of its mission, the AHA provides valuable information about incorporating healthy habits including tips and guidance for eating a heart healthy-diet.

    Function

    • The AHA makes recommendations on appropriate foods to eat for those who may be suffering from congestive heart failure. While this type of diet is designed for a medical condition, it is safe and healthy for general populations. If you want to lose weight, reduce your risk of disease or increase your energy level, this type of diet is ideal for you. The diet suggests eating habits that can be incorporated for a lifetime and can promote long-term change and health improvement. Improving health reduces out-of-pocket costs for medical care, as well as financial burdens on society and the medical care system caused by chronic disease and obesity.

    Features

    • According to the AHA, the recommended foods are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol. Each of these dietary components is related to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Some examples of healthy foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, salmon, unsalted peanut butter, low-fat milk and olive oil. While those who do not suffer from congestive heart failure may not need to make such drastic changes as suggested by this diet, it is a great starting point for getting healthy.

    Dos and Don'ts

    • The heart-healthy diet suggests several things that you should and should not do. Choose fruits and vegetables that are fresh or frozen (without sauces) which have no added sodium. Canned is okay if there is no heavy syrup or added salt. Protein sources such as beans are preferred dried versus canned. Nuts and seeds should be unsalted. Any frozen meats should not be breaded. Trim all visible fat from fresh meats before cooking. If you currently consume full-fat dairy products, switch to low-fat or non-fat milks and yogurts.

    Considerations

    • Excess sodium is a concern when it comes to eating a heart-healthy diet. While this diet makes excellent recommendations on the foods you should eat, it is important to pay attention to the preparation of these foods and how they are served. Many times sodium is added after the cooking process from the salt shaker on the table. Reduce or eliminate the amount of table salt you add to food and check the sodium levels on the food labels of any condiment you add.

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  • Photo Credit Ivan Melenchon Serrano, www.morguefile.com

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