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Nov 19

Heart Healthy Diet – Cleveland Clinic

Habits that fuel a healthy heart. Eat Heart Healthy

Following these nutritional strategies can help you reduce or even eliminate some risk factors, such as reducing total and LDL-cholesterol; lowering blood pressure, blood sugars and triglycerides; and reducing body weight. While most dietary plans tell you what you cant eat (usually your favorite foods!), the most powerful nutrition strategies help you focus on what you can and should eat. In fact, research has shown that adding certain foods to your diet is just as important as cutting back on others.

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Lifestyle Management Guidelines (2013) urge people to eat a healthy diet and decrease saturated fats and trans fats in their diet. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (from olive and canola oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, flaxseed, soy and fatty fish).

Choose seven to nine -A-Day

Aim for a combined seven - nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day provides a variety of antioxidants, b-vitamins, dietary fiber and a host of additional plant chemicals known to help prevent disease.

One serving of fruit includes:

1 medium-sized piece of fresh fruit1/2 medium banana1/2 grapefruit 2 Tbsp dried fruit1/2 cup canned fruit1/2 to 3/4 cup most juices

One serving of vegetables includes:

1/2 cup cooked vegetables1 cup raw or leafy vegetables

Eat a rainbow of colors

Eat a variety of orange carrots and oranges, red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, and peaches, purple plums, green celery, lettuce, and kiwis and yellow peppers and bananas. Choosing a rainbow of colors helps ensure a diverse intake of nutrients.

Increase fruits and vegetables in your diet

*If you have high blood pressure, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains is recommended [see DASH diet]

As part of a healthy diet, fiber can reduce cholesterol. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. Its found primarily in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. As fiber passes through the body, it affects the way the body digests foods and absorbs nutrients.

A diet rich in fiber has health benefits beyond cholesterol control: it helps control blood sugar, promote regularity, prevent gastrointestinal disease and helps in weight management.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Each has a unique effect on health.

Overall, you should aim for a total intake of 25 or more grams of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) each day.

Increase plant sources of protein and start reducing your intake of animal protein. Eating more beef, pork, and chicken with skin, and whole milk cheeses and dairy products means more intake of high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat, both of which contribute to weight gain and increased risk of heart disease. So start replacing some animal fat meals with meatless meals. There are plenty of palatable nonmeat substitutes that provide good sources of protein but that also provide heart-friendly ingredients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Increase whole grains and limit processed or refined carbohydrate foods (e.g., white bread, white pasta, white rice). Whole grain breads, brown rice, oats, barley, bulgur [a form of whole wheat], quinoa [a grain-like product], whole wheat pasta, whole grain crackers and cereals are called unrefined or whole-grain carbohydrates.

These foods provide more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber than refined carbohydrates.

Foods such as sweets and sugar sweetened beverages should be limited. You dont have to eliminate them from the menu altogether to derive benefitjust dont make them part of your everyday diet. A couple times a month is better than a couple times a week.

The American Heart Association suggests two three servings per day of dairy. This is good for heart, bone and blood pressure health. Such sources are skim milk or 1% milk, 1% or nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese, and reduced fat cheeses.

Drinking alcohol is not encouraged, but if you do drink in moderation. Moderate alcohol use is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Alcohol should be avoided with some medical conditions or medications. Talk to your doctor about drinking alcohol.

More Information

When you are trying to follow an eating plan that's good for you, it may help to know how much of a certain kind of food is considered a "serving." The list below offers some examples.

Skipping meals is not recommended. Small, frequent meals and snacks appear to promote weight loss and maintenance and give you an opportunity to consume important nutrients throughout the day. Skipping meals only lowers metabolism and deprives you of key nutrients. Researchers have found that people who balance their calories into four to six small meals each day have lower cholesterol levels., so divide your calories into 4 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day.

A body mass index, or BMI, of 18 to 24.9 is considered ideal. Speak with your physician or registered dietitian to learn how you can maintain or achieve a healthier body mass index. Even a loss of 5 to 10% of your body weight can have a significant impact on your overall heart health. For instance, a 200 lb. female would have to lose only 10 to 20 pounds; a 280 lb. male would have to lose only 14 to 28 pounds.

A healthy diet ALONG WITH exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol and heart health. Engaging in aerobic exerciseeven brisk walkingfor at least 30 minutes most days of the week, in addition to maintaining an active lifestyle, can have considerable heart-health benefits. Regardless of the exercise regimen you choose, check with your physician before starting one.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/26/2018.

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Heart Healthy Diet - Cleveland Clinic

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