One risk factor that we have complete control over is what we eat.
Eating a heart healthy diet is something that can make a big difference not only in your heart health, but also for your daily health and energy levels.
A Heart Healthy Diet includes foods that are low in salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
I found a pretty extensive list of foods included in a Heart Healthy Diet from the American Heart Association:
|Fruits||Fresh, canned or frozen|
|Vegetables||Fresh or frozen (avoid sauce or flavor pouches, which add salt and fat)
Canned is OK if unsalted or rinsed
|Meats, poultry, fish||Fresh or frozen fish (not breaded)
Canned tuna and salmon (unsalted or rinsed)
Chicken or turkey, both with the skin removed
Lean cuts of beef, veal, pork or lamb (trim away all fat)
|Meat substitutes||Dried beans, peas, lentils (not canned)
Tofu (soybean curd)
Nuts or seeds (unsalted, dry-roasted), such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds and walnuts (Eat nuts in small amounts because they’re high in fat and calories.)
Unsalted peanut butter
|Drinks||Fruit juices, fresh, frozen or canned
Canned low-sodium or no-salt-added tomato and vegetable juice
Breakfast drink, powder or liquid (limit to 1 cup/day)
Lemonade (frozen concentrate or fresh)
Tea and coffee in moderation
Soy protein powder, soy milk
|Dairy choices||Liquid or dry milk (1 percent, ½ percent, fat-free or nonfat)
Cottage cheese, dry curd (low sodium)
Low-fat or part-skim cheeses, such as ricotta and mozzarella
(Choose 2–3 servings of these low-fat dairy products per day.)
|Fats, oils||Unsaturated vegetable oils like canola, olive, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower
Low-sodium, low-fat salad dressing and mayonnaise
Unsalted margarine with liquid vegetable oil as first ingredient
(Use any of these in small amounts.)
|Breads, cereals, grains, starches||Pasta
Rice (enriched white or brown)
Starchy vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, green peas, etc. (not canned unless salt-free)
Loaf bread and yeast rolls
Homemade breads (with regular flour, not self-rising)
Taco shell, corn tortilla
Cooked cereals, such as corn grits, farina (regular), oatmeal, oat bran, cream of rice, cream of wheat (avoid instant cereals)
Puffed rice or wheat, shredded wheat (or any cereal with 100–150 mg of sodium (limit to 1 cup/day)
Wheat germ (in small amounts)
Unsalted, no-fat popcorn
|Cooking ingredients, seasonings||Corn starch, tapioca
Cornmeal (not self-rising because of high salt content)
Fresh or dried herbs, salt-free herb seasonings
Flour — regular white or whole-wheat (not self-rising)
Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as lemons, limes, onions, celery, etc.
Fresh garlic or ginger
Louisiana-type hot sauce (limit to 1 teaspoon/day)
Low-sodium baking powder
Onion or garlic powder (avoid garlic salt)
Tomato paste, unsalted tomatoes, unsalted tomato sauce
Butter substitute (limit to 1/2 teaspoon/day)
|Sweets||Carob powder, cocoa powder
Frozen juice bars, fruit ice, sorbet, sherbet
Sugar, honey, molasses, syrup (cane or maple)
Jelly, jam, preserves, apple butter
Graham and animal crackers, fig bars, ginger snaps
Other Heart Healthy Diet Tips from the American Heart Association:
- Keep total intake of fat between 25-35 percent, saturated fat less than 7 percent, and your intake of trans fats less than 1 percent per day.
- Limit your intake of cholesterol from food to less than 300 mg per day.
- Eat 25-30 grams of dietary fiber every day from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
- Keep sodium to 2,300 mg or less
A heart healthy diet is not just about what you can’t or shouldn’t eat! Learning to make smart choices is a life long process and one that produces life long benefits. As long as you’re focusing on making the best choices whenever you can, a heart healthy diet will happen easily. Not every choice will end up with you eating a salad, but choosing whole and nutritious foods as much as possible will ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is the best way to make sure you’re eating the Heart Healthy way.
Next up? Heart Healthy Recipes!