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How to Make Heart-Healthy Food Choices

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease and other heart conditions.

Assuming most Americans are familiar with this fact, why is heart disease still the number one killer among adults? A major reason is that most Americans eat too many high-fat, high-calorie foods. 

These steps will help you reduce your risk for this condition:

  • Eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Produce is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other essential nutrients, and it’s virtually fat- and cholesterol-free.

  • Cut back on high-fat foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fat and saturated fat. Use liquid vegetable oils in place of soft or hard margarine or shortening. Limit cakes, cookies, pastries, muffins, pies, and doughnuts.

  • Eat more seafood, and eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating fish such as salmon, trout, and herring, all of which contain omega-3 fatty acids, may help lower your risk for death from coronary artery disease.

  • Read and compare food labels. To use food labels effectively, first look at how many servings the package contains, and then look at the calories and fat per serving. Multiply the calories and fat by the number of servings you’re going to eat.

  • Cut back on high-cholesterol foods. Some high-cholesterol foods include eggs, red meat, and liver.

  • Prepare foods with little or no added salt. The 2010 recommendations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture say you should limit your sodium consumption to less than 2,300 mg per day. The daily sodium intake is 1,500 mg for African-Americans and for people diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, as well as adults 51 and older. The American Heart Association recommends that all Americans aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. 

After you purchase nutritious foods, make certain you prepare them in a healthy manner. Grill fish and chicken instead of frying them. Finally, watch food portion size--and watch your health improve the longer you select heart-healthy food choices!  

Online Resources

American Heart Association  http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=851
USDA  http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/dietaryguidelines/2010/policydoc/execsumm.pdf
Dietary Guidelines: health.gov  http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2000/document/choose.htm#box16
American Heart Association  http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sodium-Salt-or-Sodium-Chloride_UCM_303290_Article.jsp#.TwI8gZhQZcQ
USDA  http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/index.html
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/h_eating/h_eating.htm

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