3. Get Plenty of Omega-3 Fats
There's no debate about the need to get enough omega-3s. Found in fish oil, omega-3s protect against abnormal heart rhythms. They help keep blood vessels flexible, which lowers your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Aim for at least two servings a week of a fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, lake trout, or albacore tuna.
4. Avoid Trans Fats
Skip artificial trans fat completely. It raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol. It can also boost inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
"Fortunately, labeling requirements and bans on trans fats have dramatically limited their presence in food," says Janet de Jesus, RD, of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. But trans fats are still in some processed foods.
Also, know that if a product says it has "0" grams of trans fat per serving, it may actually have up to half a gram of trans fat per serving. That adds up. So check the ingredients list. "It's still wise to read labels and avoid foods that contain hydrogenated oils," de Jesus says.
5. Put Fats in Perspective
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, especially unsaturated fats. The Mediterranean diet gets 30% or more of its calories from fat. It's widely considered one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world. Much of the fat in the Mediterranean diet comes from olive and other plant-based oils, as well as from fish.
"It's a matter of perspective," Mozaffarian says. "With the focus on low-fat, we lost track of that. A good diet isn't about percentages of fatty acids, but about an overall healthy eating pattern." Eat a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and poultry, and healthy fats for a balanced diet.