At the heart of good health is good nutrition. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease. Use the recommendations and links below to make smart choices that benefit your heart and your overall health. Do you have a specific question? Please ask. It will be our pleasure to serve you!
- Unsaturated fats: raw nuts, olive oil, canola oil, fish oils, flax seeds and avocados
- Fiber: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, cereals, breads and pasta made from whole grains
- Lean protein: fish, poultry, beans and non-fat or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese
- Saturated and trans fats: whole-fat dairy, red meat, bacon, sausage, partially hydrogenated or deep fried foods
- Sodium: canned or processed foods and salt as a seasoning
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Reducing the amount of salt in your food is a big part of a heart healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about a teaspoon of salt a day for an adult. This sounds extremely minimal, but there are several easy—and even delicious—ways to reduce your sodium intake.
Surprisingly, the use of the salt shaker is not the main cause of too much sodium in your diet. According to the Food and Drug Administration, over 75% of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged and restaurant foods. The Nutrition Facts Label is a useful tool for monitoring how much sodium is in a food. High levels of sodium may seem “hidden” in packaged food, especially when a food doesn’t “taste” salty. Check the label and know your front of package claims to identify foods that may contain less sodium and fit into a heart healthy diet.
Percent Daily Value (%DV): The Nutrition Facts Label lists the %DV of sodium in one serving of food and is based on 100% of the recommended amount of sodium, which is less than 2400 milligrams (mg) per day.
- 5%DV (120 mg) or less of sodium per serving is low
- 20%DV (480 mg) or more of sodium per serving is high
Front of Package Claims: You can also check the front of food packages to identify foods that may contain less sodium. These claims are monitored by the FDA and are defined below.
- Very Low Sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less per serving
- Low Sodium: 140 mg of sodium or less per serving
- Reduced Sodium: At least 25% less sodium than in the original product
- Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted: At least 50% less sodium than the regular product
- Salt/Sodium free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
- No Salt Added or Unsalted: No salt is added during processing, but not necessarily sodium-free.
It’s important to check the Nutrition Facts Label to be certain of just how much sodium is in one serving of a product. A product labeled “No Salt Added” may or may not also be “Salt/Sodium Free”.
Seasoning with herbs, spices and vinegars is a great way to enjoy flavor with less sodium. Almost all spices, herbs and vinegars are low in sodium or are used in such tiny amounts that they don’t add a significant amount of salt. Fruits and vegetables are another healthy way to add flavor to your food. Experiment, taste and let your taste buds be your guide!
Meat, Fish and Poultry
- Beef: Bay leaf, mustard powder, green pepper, marjoram, fresh mushrooms, nutmeg, onion, garlic, pepper, chives, cloves, cumin, rosemary, savory, sage and thyme
- Chicken: Green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, mushrooms, paprika, poultry seasoning, sage, garlic, oregano, rosemary, savory, thyme and pepper
- Fish: Bay leaf, curry powder, dry mustard powder, green pepper, lemon juice, marjoram, mushrooms and paprika
- Lamb: Curry powder, garlic, mint, mint jelly, pineapple, rosemary, savory, thyme, oregano and pepper
- Pork: Coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, pepper, sage, savory and thyme
- Veal: Marjoram, oregano, bay leaf, curry powder, ginger, apricot and pepper
- Asparagus: Garlic, lemon juice and vinegar
- Corn: Pepper, green pepper, pimiento and fresh cilantro
- Cucumbers: Dill weed, chives and vinegar
- Green Beans: Lemon juice, marjoram, dill weed, nutmeg, pepper and oregano
- Greens: Onion, pepper and vinegar
- Peas: Mint, pepper, parsley and onion
- Potatoes: Pepper, parsley, onion, green pepper, chives and pimento
- Squash: Onion, pepper, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cinnamon and brown sugar
- Tomatoes: Basil, oregano, marjoram and onion
- Bread: Caraway, marjoram, oregano, poppy seed, rosemary and thyme
- Rice: Onion, saffron, green pepper, chives and pimento
- Savory-Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder rosemary, orange zest and lemon zest
- Spicy-Curry powder, dried basil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin, black pepper and wasabi powder
- Sweet-Cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, pumpkin spice and cloves
Soups, Salads and Sauces
- Soups: Bay leaf, chervil, tarragon, marjoram, parsley, savory and rosemary
- Salads: Basil, chives, tarragon, garlic chives, parsley, herb and wine vinegars
- Tomato Sauce: Basil, bay leaf, marjoram, oregano and parsley
Not all fats are created equal. Unsaturated fats help to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and some may even slightly raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels in the blood. Saturated fats have been shown to raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, damaging the heart and arteries, as well as increasing risk for heart attack and stroke.
Unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are essential for good health. They’re found mainly in fish, nuts, seeds and oils from plants. Some examples of foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout herring, avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower. Below is a breakdown of food sources for each type of unsaturated fat.
- Polyunsaturated Fats:
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Fatty fish like salmon, trout, or herring, flaxseed, canola oil and walnuts
- Omega 6 Fatty Acids – Vegetable oils, soy nuts and many types of seeds
- Monounsaturated Fats: Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, butters made from these nuts and avocados
Saturated and trans fats negatively affect heart health and should be controlled. This can be accomplished by limiting solid fat, swapping out high-fat foods for lower-fat foods, reading food labels on prepared foods and changing some of your lifestyle practices when grocery shopping, snacking, cooking meals at home and eating out. Below is a list of food sources containing high amounts of saturated and trans fats.
- Saturated Fat is mainly found in foods from animals and some plants: Beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry, fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole and 2 percent milk, coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil (tropical oils) and cocoa butter.
- Trans-Fatty Acids are formed during the process of hydrogenation: Hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or vegetable oils, margarine and shortening can be sources of trans fats and are sometimes added to foods such as French fries, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, chips, muffins, pies, cakes and other commercially fried foods and baked goods.
- Hidden Sources of Trans Fat
- The trans fat content of foods is printed on the Nutrition Facts Label if the amount of trans fat per serving is 0.5 grams or greater.
- Even though there may be 0 g trans fat per serving, it may not be trans fat free. Consuming multiple servings of a product containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can quickly add up.
- Hidden Sources of Trans Fat
Be sure to look at the ingredients list for hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or vegetable oils, which can be sources of trans fats.
- American Heart Association
- Mrs. Dash
- National Heart Lung & Blood Institute
- Heart Healthy Recipe Substitutions