7 tips for heart-healthy eating
If you want to help improve the health of your heart, your food choices may be a good place to start.
Eating the right kinds of foods can offer such benefits as lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and a healthier weight, any of which may help to keep heart disease at bay.
Scroll on to learn seven dietary changes that are good for your heart. You can make them a little at a time, instead of all at once.
1. Eat more plant foods
Fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products pack healthful vitamins, minerals and fiber that may help prevent heart disease. Because they’re naturally low in calories and may make you feel full faster, these foods also may help you maintain a heart-healthy weight. Eat them every day with meals and as snacks.
2. Choose lean proteinsIf you eat meat, select the leanest cuts you can buy—skinless poultry breast is one good choice. Remove any fat you can see before cooking. Also, limit your intake of processed meats, like deli slices. Plan some meals that feature a meatless lean protein, like beans or peas.
3. Put fish on the menu twice a week
Fatty fish, like salmon, herring and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help protect your heart. What’s more, compared to other meats, fish is generally lower in saturated fat, the kind that causes plaque buildup in your heart’s arteries.
4. Lean into low-fat eating
Choosing fat-free or low-fat foods and beverages may help you keep your arteries healthy. Switch to low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt and cheese. Broil, roast or bake foods instead of frying. Choose low-fat salad dressings.
5. Go easy on the sweets
Aim to eat fewer foods and drink fewer beverages with added sugars. They may give you a lot of calories without the good-for-you nutrients. Satisfy a sweet tooth with fruit instead of cake or pie. Try unsweetened tea or water with a slice of cucumber. Enjoy a small portion of dessert as an occasional treat.
6. Reduce sodium and salt
Eating too much sodium and salt can boost your blood pressure, which may put you at risk for heart disease. When shopping, compare items and choose those with the least amounts of sodium and salt. Be aware that many processed packaged foods (such as frozen dinners) may have more sodium than you should eat. Cook without adding salt.
7. Choose healthy oils
When cooking, use a small amount of liquid vegetable oil, like olive, sunflower, safflower or canola. These oils tend to have more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They may help you control your blood cholesterol levels when used instead of saturated fats found in foods like butter and coconut oil.
Could you be at risk for a heart attack?
Heart disease doesn’t always cause symptoms. So yes, you could be at risk, even if you feel fine. This risk assessment can help you know your heart attack risk, which may help you take steps to lower it.
Sources: American Heart Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- American Heart Association. "The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations.
- American Heart Association. "Dietary Fats." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/dietary-fats.
- American Heart Association. "Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids.
- American Heart Association. "Get the Scoop on Sodium and Salt." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/sodium-and-salt.
- American Heart Association. "Healthy Cooking Oils." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/healthy-cooking-oils.
- American Heart Association. "How to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/add-color/how-to-eat-more-fruits-and-vegetables.
- American Heart Association. "Picking Healthy Proteins." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/meat-poultry-and-fish-picking-healthy-proteins.
- American Heart Association. "Saturated Fat." https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight." https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Know Your Risk for Heart Disease." https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Parent Tips: Making Healthier Food Choices." https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/tip_choices.pdf.