Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. A man has about a 53% chance and a woman 62% of having a fatal heart attack as the first symptom of heart disease. If you are worried about heart disease or have a history of heart disease in your family, one of the most important things you can do is to start eating a heart-healthy diet. Changing your diet can help stop or even reverse heart disease.
At first, it may seem like there is a lot to learn, but you don’t have to make these changes all at once. Start with small steps. Over time, making a number of small changes can add up to a big difference in your heart health.
To have a heart-healthy diet:
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods.
- Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
- Limit salt (sodium).
- Stay at a healthy weight by balancing the calories you eat with your physical activity.
- Eat more foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish.
What Foods and Nutrients are Part of A Heart-Healthy Diet?
Healthy foods are ones that are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients, such as:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Beans (including chickpeas and lentils) and whole grains (such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, rye, bulgur, barley, quinoa, and corn).
- Oily fish like salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines, which contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get omega-3 fats from omega-3 eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil.
Foods to limit are ones that are high in:
- Unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
- Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products, such as meats and dairy products.
- Trans fats include shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fats are made when a liquid fat is turned into a solid fat (for example, when corn oil is made into stick margarine). They are found in many processed foods, such as cookies, crackers, and snack foods. Restaurants often use hydrogenated oils for frying foods, so try to limit fried foods when eating out.
- Cholesterol is found in animal products, such as eggs, dairy products, and meats.
- Salt (sodium). You need some sodium in your diet, but most people get far more than they need. Too much sodium tends to raise blood pressure. Processed foods and fast foods often contain a lot of sodium. Try to limit these foods and eat more fresh foods.
Eating foods that contain unhealthy fats can raise the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in your blood. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol increases your chance of having clogged arteries , which can lead to coronary artery disease and heart attack
Trans fat is especially bad. It both raises the level of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides.