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Heart Disease Health Center

Eat for a Healthy Heart

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A good rule of thumb for fats is: "Down with animal and up with plant," Ferrarro says. So sprinkle sunflower seeds instead of cheese on your salad, or cook with safflower or vegetable oil instead of butter. Just remember that all fats are high in calories, so don't overdo any of them.

One great source of unsaturated fats, omega-3, comes from oily fish. At least twice a week, eat an oily fish -- like salmon, trout, herring, or sardines -- in place of meat. Omega-3 fatty acids help protect against heart disease.

Other ways to cut saturated fats:

  • Switch from full fat to low-fat or no-fat dairy products, but beware that they may have more sugar or salt to bump up the flavor.
  • Keep meat portions no bigger than the palm of your hand.
  • Pick leaner cuts of meat, like pork tenderloin instead of spareribs.
  • Eat chicken or turkey without the skin.

Cut Back on Sodium

If your diet includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, you'll eat fewer processed foods, which are loaded with salt, or sodium. Salt holds excess fluid in your body, raising your blood pressure and your chances of heart disease and stroke. Most people in the U.S. eat more than twice the sodium that they should, and most of it comes from processed foods, like deli meats, and canned items like soup or tomato sauce. Choose fresh foods and season them with herbs.

Eating fruits and vegetables also boosts potassium, another way to lower sodium. Potassium sends more sodium out of your body in urine and helps lower blood pressure. Bananas, raisins, oranges, and white and sweet potatoes are great sources of potassium.

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Reviewed on March 27, 2014

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