How to Make Heart-Healthy Food Choices

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease and other heart conditions.

Assuming most Americans are familiar with this fact, why is heart disease still the number one killer among adults?

“Basically we’re still choosing too many high-fat, high-calorie foods that add extra weight and clog our arteries,” says Judy Wylie-Rosett, Ed.D., R.D., an American Heart Association spokeswoman. “We need to remember it’s the overall pattern of what we eat that increases or decreases our health risks, and too many of us are eating foods that increase the risk of heart disease.”

These steps will help you reduce your risk for this condition:

  • Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables every day. Produce is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other essential nutrients, and it’s virtually fat- and cholesterol-free.

  • Cut back on high-fat foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fat and saturated fat. Use liquid vegetable oils and soft margarines in place of hard margarine or shortening. Limit cakes, cookies, pastries, muffins, pies and doughnuts.

  • Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating fish such as salmon, trout and herring, all of which contain omega-3 fatty acids, may help lower your risk for death from coronary artery disease.

  • Read and compare food labels. To use food labels effectively, first look at how many servings the package contains, and then look at the calories and fat per serving. Multiply the calories and fat by the number of servings you’re going to eat.

  • Cut back on high-cholesterol foods. Aim to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day. Some high-cholesterol foods include eggs, red meat and liver.

  • Prepare foods with little or no added salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

“Paying attention to portion sizes and preparation methods — for example, grilling instead of deep-frying fish and chicken — also is important,” says Ms. Wylie-Rosett. “Choosing heart-healthy foods requires attention, but the payoff in better health and increased longevity is worth it.”


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