How Does Nutrition Affect the Heart?

The heart is involved in many functions that keep your body running. Wherever you are on your health journey, it's never too late to improve and make your heart as healthy as it can be. Committing to a nutritious diet can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

An option to consider is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps you get the most out of healthy eating habits. It requires no special foods and allows you to choose foods low in saturated and trans fats, rich in vitamins and minerals and lower in sodium. Learn how to eat right through the DASH eating plan recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Eat This!

Fruits and veggies
Fruits and Vegetables. Aside from adding flavor and variety to your diet, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
whole grains
Whole grains. Whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereal, crackers, pasta and brown rice are higher in fiber and rich in complex carbohydrates.
low fat diary
Fat-free or low-fat dairy. Dairy products primarily contain saturated fat, which can increase your risk for heart disease. Choose fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, yogurt and cheese products instead.
Fish. Tuna and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that help build brain cells and improve heart health if you already have heart disease.
Poultry. Baked, broiled and roasted skinless poultry and eggs are packed with protein to help your body build and repair cells.
Beans and Legumes. The high plant protein in beans and legumes is an excellent substitute for meat and dairy products.
Nuts and Seeds. The small but powerful nuts and seeds contain nutrients like fiber, plant protein and healthy fats that can provide protective effects against heart disease.
healthy fats
Healthy fats. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil and avocados are good for you.

Limit This!

fatty meats
Fatty meats. Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol. Choose lean meat, skinless poultry and unprocessed red meats (beef, pork and lamb). Red meats contain saturated fats.
Added sugar. Foods and beverages with added sugars, such as sodas, sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy, syrups and jellies, can lead to obesity and reduce heart health.
Sodium. Prepackaged foods, sauces, canned foods and processed foods all contain high sodium. Overeating salt and sodium can cause high blood pressure.
trans fat
Trans fats. Processed foods, packaged snacks and foods with "hydrogenated" and "partially hydrogenated" ingredients contain trans fats that can raise bad cholesterol.

A healthy diet is more effective when combined with exercise. Regular exercise can help you burn calories faster and build lean muscle. If you have a condition or have not been exercising for a long time, it's best to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. We're here for you, always!

American Heart Association
Harvard Health Publishing
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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