Eat Healthy to Help Prevent Heart Disease

You can lower your chances of getting heart disease by eating healthy. For a healthy heart, eat:

  • Less Fat
  • Less Sodium
  • Fewer Calories
  • More Fiber

Eat less fat

Some fats are more likely to cause heart disease. These fats are usually found in foods from animals, such as meat, milk, cheese, and butter. They also are found in foods with palm and coconut oils. Eat less of these foods.

Eat less sodium

Eating less sodium can help lower some people's blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Sodium is something we need in our diets, but most of us eat too much of it. Much of the sodium we eat comes from salt we add to our food at the table or that food companies add to their foods. So, avoid adding salt to foods at the table.

Eat fewer calories

When we eat more calories than we need, we gain weight. Being overweight can cause heart disease. When we eat fewer calories than we need, we lose weight.

Eat more fiber

Eating fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains may help lower your chances of getting heart disease. To learn more visit the fiber article.

Diet Tips for a Healthy Heart

  • Eat a diet low in fat, especially animal fats and palm and coconut oils. (These foods contain saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat and cholesterol can cause heart disease.)
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.
  • Maintain or improve your weight.
  • Eat plenty of grain products, fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose milk with 1% fat or skim milk instead of whole milk.
  • Eliminate fried foods and replace them with baked, steamed, boiled, broiled, or microwaved foods.
  • Cook with oils which are low in fat and saturated fat like corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, olive,canola, peanut and sesame oils. Stay away from oils and shortenings that are high in fat and saturated fat.
  • Smoked, cured, salted and canned meat, poultry and fish are high in salt. Eat unsalted fresh or frozen meat, poultry and fish.
  • Replace fatty cuts of meat with lean cuts of meat or low-fat meat alternatives.
  • In recipes requiring one whole egg try two egg whites as a lower fat alternative.
  • Replace sour cream and mayonnaise with plain low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, or low-fat sour cream and mayonnaise.
  • Substitute hard and processed cheeses for low-fat, low-sodium cheeses.
  • Use herbs and spices as seasoning for vegetables and potatoes instead of salt and butter.
  • Replace salted crackers with unsalted or low-sodium whole-wheat crackers.
  • Substitute canned soups,bouillons and dry soup mixes which are high in salt for sodium-reduced soups and bouillons.
  • Replace white bread, white rice, and cereals made with white flour with whole-wheat bread, long-grain rice, and whole-grain cereals.
  • Substitute snacks high in salt and fat with low-fat, low salt snacks. Cut-up vegetables and fruits are a quick healthy snack.

Read the Food Label

The food label can help you eat less fat and sodium, fewer calories and more fiber.

Look for certain words on food labels. The words can help you spot foods that may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease.

Words to Look For:

  • Fat-free Saturated fat-free
  • Low-fat
  • Low saturated fat
  • Reduced or less fat
  • Reduced or less saturated fat
  • Cholesterol-free
  • Low-cholesterol
  • Reduced or less cholesterol
  • Lean
  • Extra lean
  • Healthy
  • Sodium-free
  • Low-sodium
  • Light in sodium
  • Lightly salted
  • Reduced or less sodium
  • Salt-free
  • Unsalted
  • Light
  • Calorie-free
  • Low-calorie
  • Reduced or fewer calories
  • High-fiber
  • More or added fiber

Read the Food Label

Look at the side or back of the package. Here, you will find "Nutrition Facts." Look for these words:

  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium

Look at the %Daily Value listed next to each term. If it is 5% or less for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, the food is low in these nutrients. That's good. It means the food fits in with a diet that is heart healthy and may help reduce your chance of developing heart disease.

For additional information visit:
  • Heart Attack and Atherosclerosis Prevention.

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    Last Editorial Review: 8/25/1999