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How to eat a heart-healthy diet

How to eat a heart-healthy diet

Reprinted with permission from THE PRESCRIBER’S LETTER

Eating a heart-healthy diet can lower your risk of problems like heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Use the following tips as a guide for a heart-healthy diet. Remember not to get discouraged if you indulge in a favorite once in a while.

DO eat:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal
  • Low-fat dairy such as cheese, milk, or yogurt
  • Poultry such as chicken and turkey
  • Fish
  • Beans and peas
  • Vegetable oils like canola or olive
  • Nuts

LIMIT your intake of:

  • Sweets like candy, ice cream, or baked goods
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea, or coffee drinks
  • Red meats such as beef and pork
  • Saturated fats such as that found in processed meats, animal fat, palm oil, coconut oil, etc.

Some heart-healthy diets include DASH, Mediterranean, American Heart Association (AHA), and USDA Choose My Plate. Pick one you can stay with long-term.

Reducing the sodium (salt) you eat can help keep your heart healthy by lowering your blood pressure. In fact, if you have high blood pressure, reducing your salt by about one-half teaspoon per day can drop your blood pressure by about two points.

Aim for no more than about 2400 mg of sodium, or one teaspoon of table salt, per day. A teaspoon of sea salt has a little less sodium, and a teaspoon of kosher salt has about half as much. Surprisingly, most salt in your diet doesn’t come from the shaker. Use these tips to cut back on sodium:

  • Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned “no salt added” food. Avoid canned or processed food.
  • Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning in cooking and at the table.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereal without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored mixes.
  • Cut back on frozen dinners, pizza, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings.
  • Rinse canned foods to remove some salt.
  • Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals low in sodium.
  • Taste food before reaching for the salt shaker.
  • Keep in mind the amount of food that has about 1000 mg of sodium: a large fast food burger or hot dog, one large slice or two regular slices of pizza, or one can of soup.

There are “apps” for your smartphone that track what you eat. Here are some examples:

More strategies to keep your heart healthy include:

  • Exercising for around 30 minutes most days
  • Stopping smoking
  • Staying at a healthy weight

Making these changes can be tough. Try tackling one at a time for the best success.

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