An in-depth report on how to build the best diet for your heart's health.
Heart-Healthy Diet Guidelines
The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association latest core dietary guidelines for reducing unhealthy cholesterol levels recommend:
- Make vegetables, fruits, and whole grains the focus of your diet
- Include low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes (beans), nontropical vegetable oils, and nuts
- Limit intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats
- Following this dietary pattern helps to naturally limit intake of trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium
Other key recommendations for a heart-healthy diet include:
- Limit daily consumption of foods saturated fats (found in red meat, butter, cheese and whole-fat dairy products) to less than 6% of total daily calories.
- Replace unhealthy saturated and trans fats with healthy unsaturated fats from plant and fish oils. Olive and canola oils are monounsaturated fats. Salmon and other fatty fish, as well as walnuts and other nuts, are excellent sources of polyunsaturated fats.
- Restrict your sodium (salt) intake. Reducing sodium is especially important for middle-aged and older people, African-Americans, and people with high blood pressure. The DASH diet is a good example of a heart-healthy eating plan that limits sodium intake.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men).
- Exercise regularly and include at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise 3 to 4 times a week so that you burn at least as many calories as you consume to attain or maintain a healthy weight.
- Have your health care provider create an individualized weight loss plan for you if you are overweight or obese. The plan should include a reduced calorie diet, behavioral strategies, and increased physical activity.
2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Upcoming dietary guidelines from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, due to be released in late 2015, will follow similar recommendations for limiting sugars, saturated fat, and sodium (salt).
Restrictions on dietary cholesterol have been removed, since saturated fat is a larger concern for heart health than the amount of cholesterol found in food sources.
Get Your Vitamins From Food
There is little evidence that multivitamin supplements help reduce the risk for heart disease or cancer, according to recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force. The agency specifically recommends against taking vitamin E or beta carotene supplements because there is conclusive evidence that they do not help prevent disease. Nutrient-rich foods (especially vegetables and fruits) are the best source for your vitamins.