While some heart disease risk factors, such as family history, are out of your control, a healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons. Start improving your diet today and your heart health with these 9 simple heart healthy diet tips.
One banana has 422 mg—about 12 percent of your recommended daily dose—of potassium. Research suggests that diets rich in potassium can help lower blood pressure. Other good sources include sweet potatoes (694 mg for one medium), nonfat yogurt (579 mg for 1 cup) and spinach (419 mg for ½ cup, cooked).
Studies suggest that replacing saturated fats (e.g., butter) with plant-based sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower blood cholesterol. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include corn and soybeans, and many nuts and seeds and their oils. Monounsaturated fat sources include canola, olive and peanut oils, and avocado.
Nuts and seeds deliver heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They also add heart-healthy fiber to your diet.
Saturated fat isn't quite as "bad" as we used to think (read more about the science of saturated fats) but the American Heart Association still recommends limiting saturated fat for a healthier heart. You can use the percent of daily value (DV) information on a product’s Nutrition Facts label to help you decide if the food is a smart choice from a saturated-fat perspective. Five percent or less of the DV is low—and a good choice. Twenty percent DV or more is on the high side.
Fish—especially "oily" kinds, such as salmon—are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that, studies suggest, protect the heart. (Note: The Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency advise pregnant and nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant to avoid certain types of seafood and limit others, as most fish contain mercury, which may be harmful to developing fetuses and young children whose nervous systems are still developing.) For men and women who won’t become pregnant, the benefits of eating fish frequently far outweigh any risks associated with mercury.
Compare sodium content for similar foods and you can save hundreds of milligrams of sodium. For example, the sodium content for frozen pizzas ranges from 450 mg to more than 1,200 mg. The range among salad dressings is 110 to 505. Salsas: 120 to 240. Better yet: make your own at home to have control of the sodium.
When dining out, watch out for high-sodium foods. Sneaky sodium sources include anything that’s pickled, smoked or served in a broth or "au jus." Cocktail, soy and teriyaki sauces also are packed with sodium.
Make buckwheat pancakes. Serve stir-fry over bulgur. Substitute millet for rice in curry dishes. Whole grains have more fiber and nutrients than refined carbohydrates.
A cup of fruit juice offers vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals, but if you’re watching your weight, whole fruits are smarter choices. They contain more fiber, which helps you feel full, and fewer calories. For example, one medium orange has 62 calories and 3 grams of fiber, whereas an eight-ounce glass of OJ has about 120 calories and no fiber.