Published on February 10, 2022

Eat Your Heart Out (of Danger)

assorted fruits and vegetables

Not only is heart disease the No. 1 killer in America, but it is also a major cause of disability for many who suffer from it.

A diet high in sodium and fat, specifically saturated and trans-fats, increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. A sedentary lifestyle also increases your risk.

Fats

For overall heart health, try to limit foods high in saturated and trans-fats. Saturated fats can be found in fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon and sausage; whole fat dairy like cream, butter and whole milk; candy and sweets. Trans-fat can be found in stick margarine, shortening, fried foods and packaged foods with hydrogenated oils.

Fruits, Vegetables & Whole Grains

To support a strong and healthy heart, choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in place of highly processed foods. Eating more fruits and vegetables will increase fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. The recommended daily amount of fiber is 25-30g daily, and most Americans do not get enough.

Aim for five cups of fruits and vegetables plus three ounces of whole grains daily to meet this recommendation. Focus on leaner proteins such as skinless chicken or turkey breast, fish or seafood and lower fat dairy to avoid excess fat and calories.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats. Good sources include salmon, wild caught tuna, sardines, ground flaxseed and walnuts. Incorporate Omega-3 sources twice or more per week. Drinking more water and limiting sugary beverages also helps your heart.

Salt

Be careful with the salt shaker. However, 70% of the sodium consumed daily comes already in the food we eat. Removing the salt shaker from the table helps reduce temptation. Sea salt is no lower in sodium than regular salt.

Try to use more salt-free herbs and spices such as garlic, pepper, lemon, vinegar or salt-free seasoning blends. Select foods labeled “reduced salt” or “low sodium,” which is defined as less than 140 mg of sodium per serving. Note that 400 mg or more of sodium per serving is considered high. Salt is not always salty and hides easily in items like instant pudding, instant oatmeal, quick breads/mixes, packaged mixes, frozen dinners/pizza, pickled foods, cured meats, ramen noodle mixes and condiments.

Heart-Healthy Habits

  • Eat less total fat, sodium and cholesterol; processed foods, fried foods and fast foods
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish and nuts. Remember, the fresher, the better.
  • Drink less soda and sweet tea
  • Drink more water or other calorie-free beverages
  • Exercise more—at least 30 minutes five days a week

Fat Facts chart

A diet high in sodium and fat, specifically saturated and trans-fats, increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.