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A heart-healthy diet

Feed your heart well

One of the secrets of having a healthy heart is eating a healthy balanced diet.

Adopting a heart-healthy diet can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar and reduce body weight in people who are overweight.

Adding heart- healthy foods is just as important as cutting back on heart-unhealthy foods.

Here are nine ways that your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Eat more oily fish. Oily fish is a good source of protein and other nutrients. It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly oily fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna), which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pulses. These beautiful and delicious wonders of nature may be one of the most powerful strategies in fighting heart disease.
  • Choose fat calories wisely. Eat less saturated fat.
  • Limit your total fat grams.
  • Eat a bare minimum of saturated fats and trans fats (for example, fats found in butter, margarine, salad dressing, fried foods, snack foods, sweets, and desserts).
  • When you use added fat, use fats high in monounsaturated fats (for example, fats found in olive and peanut oil).
  • Eat a variety - and just the right amount -- of protein-rich foods. Commonly eaten protein foods (meat and dairy products) are among the main culprits in increasing heart disease risk, primarily because of their saturated fat content. Reduce this dietary risk factor by balancing the amount of animal, fish, and vegetable protein you include in your diet.
  • Limit cholesterol consumption. Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people. Limiting dietary cholesterol has an added bonus: you'll also cut out saturated fat, as cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods.
  • Feed your body regularly. Skipping meals often leads to overeating. Eating five to six mini-meals is one good way to control blood sugar, burn fat calories more efficiently, and regulate cholesterol levels. Get energy by eating complex carbohydrates (whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain breads) and limit simple carbohydrates (fizzy drinks, sugar, sweets).

Other heart-healthy tips

  • Reduce salt intake. This will help you control your blood pressure.
  • Exercise. The human body was meant to be active. Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, improves blood flow, reduces high blood pressure, raises HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), and helps control blood sugar and body weight.
  • Hydrate. Water is vital to life. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Enjoy every bite. You should aim to improve your diet, not deprive yourself. When you enjoy what you eat, you feel more positive about life, which helps you feel better. An added bonus is that you eat less when you eat food you love, and that helps control weight and reduce cholesterol levels.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 11, 2014

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