WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A heart healthy diet is an eating plan low in total fat, unhealthy fats, and sodium. A heart healthy diet helps to decrease your risk for heart disease. If you have already had a heart attack or stroke, a heart healthy diet may help to decrease your risk of having another heart attack or stroke.
Different types of fat in food:
Unhealthy fats: A diet that is high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat may cause unhealthy cholesterol levels. Unhealthy cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol:Limit intake of cholesterol to less than 200 mg per day. Cholesterol is found in meat, eggs, and dairy.
Saturated fat:Limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Ask your primary healthcare provider how many calories you need each day. Saturated fats are found in butter, cheese, ice cream, whole milk, and palm oil. Saturated fat is also found in meat, such as beef, pork, chicken skin, sausage, hot dogs, and bologna.
Trans fat: Avoid trans fat as much as possible. Foods that say trans fat free on the label may still have up to 0.5 grams of fat per serving. Trans fats are used in fried and baked foods.
Healthy fats:Unsaturated fats can help to improve your cholesterol levels. Replace foods that are high in saturated and trans fats with foods that are high in the following kinds of fats:
Monounsaturated fats:These are found in avocados, nuts, and vegetable oils, such as olive, canola, and sunflower oil.
Polyunsaturated fats:These can be found in vegetable oils, such as soybean or corn oil. Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that can help to decrease the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fats are found in fish, such as salmon, herring, trout, and tuna. Omega-3 fats can also be found in plant foods, such as walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans, and canola oil.
Foods to limit or avoid:
Learn to read labels on packaged foods before you buy them. Ask your dietitian or primary healthcare provider for more information about how to read food labels. The following foods are high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Limit sodium to 2,300 mg per day. Sodium is found in table salt and foods that have added salt.
High-fat baked goods, such as doughnuts, pastries, cookies, and biscuits
Chips, snack mixes, regular crackers, and flavored popcorn
Fruit and vegetables:
Regular, canned vegetables (high in sodium)
Fried vegetables or vegetables in butter or high-fat sauces
Fried fruit or fruit served with cream
Whole milk, 2% milk, half-and-half creamer
Cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream
Meats and meat substitutes:
High-fat cuts of meat (T-bone steak, regular hamburger, and ribs)
Cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage (high in sodium and fat)
Miso soup, canned or dried soups high in sodium
High-sodium sauces, such as soy sauce, ketchup, and barbecue sauce
High-fat gravy and sauces, such as Alfredo or cheese sauces
Foods you may eat and drink:
Ask your dietitian or primary healthcare provider how many servings to eat each day from each of the following groups of foods. The amount of servings you should eat from each food group depends on your daily calorie needs. Include whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans) in your diet each day to get enough fiber.
Whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, and brown rice
Low fat, low-sodium crackers and pretzels
Fruits and vegetables:
Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables (no salt, or low-sodium)
Fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruit (canned in light syrup or fruit juice)
Nonfat (skim) or 1% milk
Nonfat, low-fat cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese
Meats and meat products:
Poultry (chicken, turkey) with no skin
Lean beef and pork (loin, round, extra lean hamburger)
Beans and peas, unsalted nuts, soy products
Egg whites and substitutes
Herbs and spices in place of salt
Low-fat and low sodium snacks (unsalted pretzels, plain popcorn)
Other guidelines to follow:
Eat foods that contain omega-3 fats: Eat 2 servings of fish per week. One serving is about 4 ounces. Fish is a good source of healthy omega-3 fats. Most fish contain some mercury, but many contain levels that are not harmful to most people. Higher amounts of mercury can be harmful to pregnant women and children. Children and pregnant women should avoid eating fish high in mercury, such as shark or swordfish. Fish that have lower amounts of mercury include salmon, canned light tuna, and catfish.
Maintain a healthy weight: Your risk of heart disease is higher if you are overweight. Your primary healthcare provider may suggest that you lose weight if you are overweight. You can lose weight by eating fewer calories. Eat fewer foods that have added sugars and fat, such as soda, candy, cakes, cookies, and pies. Decrease calories by eating smaller portions at each meal and fewer snacks. Ask your primary healthcare provider for more information about how to lose weight.
Exercise regularly:Regular exercise can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise can also help improve your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk for coronary artery disease. Get 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise, or 20 minutes of intense exercise on most days of the week. Include muscle strengthening activities 2 days each week, such as push-ups, sit-ups, and lifting weights. To lose weight, get at least 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Children should exercise for at least 60 minutes each day. Talk to your primary healthcare provider about the best exercise program for you.
Limit alcohol:Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease. Ask your primary healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
You may develop heart disease if you do not follow a heart healthy diet. High blood cholesterol puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. Untreated high blood pressure may lead to a stroke. It can also lead to a heart attack or heart or kidney failure. Obesity is linked to medical problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. You may be more likely to have another stroke or heart attack if you do not follow this diet.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
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