Heart Healthy Diet

A heart-healthy diet can be simple to implement, and can be effective at lowering risk for heart disease, heart attack, blocked arteries and other heart problems. Additionally, a heart-healthy diet can result in lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and weight loss.

A heart-healthy diet starts with changing eating habits, but also includes living habits such as exercise.

Portion control, healthy food choices and regular exercise are the most important parts of a heart-healthy diet, so make sure these three things are your focus.

Also, remember that it can take a few months for the effects of a heart-healthy diet to show, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. A heart-healthy diet is not a “quick fix;” it’s a new, healthier way to live life.

Begin by focusing on these important heart-healthy goals:

  • Choose carbohydrates that are also rich in fiber.
  • Choose fat calories wisely and limit fat grams.
  • Don’t overeat protein foods, and make sure you get a variety of protein foods. Soy protein, poultry and fish are much healthier protein sources than red meat, so choose these whenever possible.
  • Eat more fish, or consider taking a fish oil supplement.
  • Eat often and regularly. Instead of three large meals a day, eat six small meals spaced evenly throughout the day.
  • Incorporate more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes into your diet.
  • Limit cholesterol intake.
  • Try to avoid or eat only the bare minimum of saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Use monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, when cooking.

These goals are general, and will help you ease into a heart-healthy diet. Too much restriction can make people get frustrated and abandon all efforts at healthy changes.

Other tips that can help:

  • Don’t multi-task while eating. Enjoy your food and take your time eating. This will result in a more satisfied, full feeling.
  • Drink a lot of water. Hydration makes the body feel better and more energized.
  • Follow serving size directions. These will help you regulate food intake and prevent overeating.
  • Get some exercise, even if it’s just a short walk, every day. This will increase blood flow and help with cholesterol and blood pressure issues.
  • Limit salt use. This will help regulate blood pressure.

Dieting Methods

Once you turn these recommendations into habit, it is easier to take on a stricter diet or regimen. A medical professional can recommend the best heart-healthy diet for each specific person, and can recommend vitamins and an exercise plan to aid heart health even more.

Calorie restriction can be effective at increasing heart health when the above tips are still followed, but popular diets like low-fat diets and low-carb diets are usually not effective. Calorie restriction can still incorporate a balanced diet with food from all food groups, but low-fat diets and low-carb diets are usually just a “quick fix” and do not include a well-balanced diet.

Heart-Healthy Diets for Children

It’s never too early to start being heart-healthy and heart-conscious. Artery buildup begins in childhood, so making sure children eat right and exercise is important too. An early start can prevent health problems like heart disease in the future.

Children should eat a lot of foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated and trans fats. These include:

  • a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • beans, fish and lean meats, like chicken
  • low-fat and nonfat dairy products, like milk and yogurt
  • plenty of whole grains.

Resources

Clarian (2006). Heart-Healthy Diet. Retrieved June 28, 2007, from: http://www.clarian.org/ADAM /doc/In-DepthReports/10/000043 .htm.