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More than one out of three Americans has heart disease or high blood pressure, or both. Eating well and staying active is an excellent way to help protect your heart.

Here are some suggestions to keep your heart healthy.

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Focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grains

  • Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. 
  • Vegetables can be raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned or dried, whole, cut-up or mashed. 
  • Fruits can be fresh, canned, frozen or dried, whole, cut-up or pureed. 
  • Choose whole grains for more fiber and nutrients. Eat less refined grains, and try to replace at least half of them with whole grains.

Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy

  • For poultry (like chicken and turkey),  choose light meat over dark meat. Light meat is leaner. Either way, don’t forget to take off the skin. 
  • Eat fish or shellfish at least twice a week. Salmon, trout, oysters and herring are good choices. They are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and lower in mercury. 
  • Use fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt.
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Limit oils and fats

  • Limit saturated fats. Saturated fats are in red meat, bacon, poultry skin, butter and high-fat dairy. Aim for 5 to 6 percent of calories from saturated fats. What does that mean? Let's say you need to eat about 2,000 calories a day. That would mean eating no more than 120 calories or 13 grams of fat from saturated fat.  
  • Eat less trans fats. Trans fats can be natural or man-made. Man-made trans fats are found in some margarines, snack foods and store-bought desserts. Natural trans fats are found in meat and milk products.
  • Watch the salt. Salt, or sodium can raise blood pressure in some people.
  • Limit sweets and sugary beverages. They add calories but no nutrition.

Need help planning healthy meals? The American Heart Association has meal plans and recipes. To find them, visit heart.org. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has meal plans and recipes. It even has recipes for people who eat only vegetables or don't eat dairy or eggs. Visit choosemyplate.gov.

 

Sources

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. Accessed December 10, 2014.

Eckel JM, Jakicic JD, Ard VS, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association task force on practice guidelines. 

Circulation. Accessed December 10, 2014.

ChooseMyPlate.gov. Healthy eating tips. Accessed December 10, 2014.

heart.org. Accessed: June 26, 2018.