Heart Healthy Diet Guidelines

The Center for Disease Control lists heart disease as the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. A number of factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment, can put a person at risk for heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of having a fatal heart attack.

  1. Salt

    • The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping your intake of sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. Excess salt can result in high blood pressure, and high blood pressure means your heart has to work harder.

    Fats

    • Limit fats in your diet, and avoid saturated fats and trans-fats altogether. Look for healthier fat options in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in vegetable oils, nuts and fish. The U.S. Department of Health and Services publication, "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005," recommends keeping fat intake to less than 20 percent of our daily caloric intake, with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fats and less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.

    Vegetables

    • All vegetables are healthy choices for a heart-healthy diet, as long as they are not prepared with excess salt, or drowned in sauces and dressings. According to the American Heart Association, eating vegetables can help with weight control and lower blood pressure.

    Fruits

    • The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping fruit on hand for healthy, low-fat, low-calorie, high-fiber, high-nutrient snacking. The website mayoclinic.com states that substances found in some plant foods, such as fruit, may prevent cardiovascular disease.

    Protein

    • Eat more white meats than red meats, and look for lean cuts. The Mayo Clinic suggests that replacing some of your meat servings with healthier protein options, such as tofu, beans and lentils, can help reduce fat and lower cholesterol.

    Carbohydrates

    • When choosing grains, the American Heart Association recommends unrefined whole grains for their high fiber content, which helps lower cholesterol. They also help you feel more satiated, to aid in controlling weight. White flour products and refined carbohydrates have little nutritional value.

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