Healthy eating: how to eat a heart-healthy diet »

Making the right choices to get your body right

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The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is renowned for its fabulous local produce

The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is renowned for its fabulous local produce [©Mornington Peninsula Gourmet]

Seasonal vegetables
Varieties of apples on the tree - Woodbridge Fruit Farm


A heart-healthy diet has lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, dried beans, and whole grains, and is low in sodium. It limits foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

Start with small steps. Over time, you can make a number of small changes to make a big difference in your heart health.

How can you start eating a more heart-healthy diet?

Start by making a few of these changes at a time.

  • Learn what a serving size is. Make sure that you are not eating larger portions than are recommended. For example, a serving of meat is 2 to 3 ounces (56 – 85 g); a 3-ounce serving (85 g) is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Measure serving sizes until you are good at 'eyeballing' them. Keep in mind that restaurants (in the US) often serve portions that are 2 to 3 times the size of a single serving.


Eat more fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables have lots of nutrients that help protect against heart disease, and they have little – if any – fat.

Keep veggies like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and carrots handy for snacks. Buy fruit that is in season, and store it where you can see it so that you will be tempted to eat it.

Cook dishes that have a lot of veggies in them, such as stir-fries and soups.


Limit saturated and trans fats

Read food labels. Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats. They are often found in cookies, crackers, and other snacks. Foods that are high in saturated fat include meats, cheeses, and fried foods.

Saturated fat is also found in coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Avoid foods with hydrogenated oil listed on the label.

Use healthy fats such as olive or canola oil when you cook. Try a spread that lowers cholesterol (such as Benecol or Take Control in the US).

Bake, broil, grill, or steam foods instead of frying them.

Eat fish at least 2 times each week to get omega-3 fats. All fish contain omega-3 fats, but certain fish, such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines, contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which are best for your heart.

Larger fish (tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel, marlin, and shark) have high levels of mercury, a chemical that can be harmful if eaten in large amounts. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who may become pregnant, and young children should not eat these larger fish.

Eat fish, skinless poultry, and soy products such as tofu instead of high-fat meats.

Limit the amount of high-fat meats you eat, including hot dogs and sausages. Cut off all visible fat when you prepare meat.

Choose nonfat or low-fat dairy products.


Eat foods high in fiber

Foods high in soluble fiber may reduce your cholesterol and provide important vitamins and minerals. A variety of foods have soluble fiber. These include barley, oatmeal, rye, dried beans, seeds, fruit, and vegetables.

Eat a variety of grain products every day. Buy whole-grain breads and cereals, instead of white bread or pastries. Look for foods that have at least 2 g of fiber in each serving and list whole wheat flour or other whole-grain flour as the first ingredient.


Limit sodium

Limit how much sodium you eat. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, if you are African-American, or if you are older than age 50, try to limit the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg a day.

Taste food before you salt it. Add only a little salt when you think you need it. With time, you will adjust to less salt.

Eat fewer snack items, fast foods, and other high-sodium, processed foods. Check food labels for the amount of sodium in packaged foods.

Choose low-sodium versions of canned goods, such as soups, vegetables, and beans. Or better yet, eat fresh or frozen vegetables instead.

Do not cook with salt. Use herbs for seasoning instead.

Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers.


Limit alcohol

Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause a variety of health problems.


Limit sugar

Limit foods and drinks with added sugar.

These include candy, desserts, and soda pop (soft drinks).


For more tips, see


This article was provided by and is used with permission of Patricia Sarmiento, US Public Health Corps

The original Cardiosmart pdf document can be found by clicking the following link »

 See related articles on health, diet and wine below.


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October 17th, 2016
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