Quick, what’s the leading cause of death among Americans? If you said, “heart disease,” you’re right. And while there are risk factors such as age, race and heredity that are beyond your control, research shows that diet also plays a very important role in heart health. Follow these guidelines to eating heart smart.
Eat your fruits and vegetables: Eat at least 4½ cups of fruits and vegetables a day in a wide range of colors, from purple grapes to green bell peppers.
Cut the fat: Eat a low-fat diet. Limit total fat to between 25 percent and 35 percent, saturated fat to less than 7 percent and trans fat to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories. Choose lean cuts of meat, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. And go with antioxidant-rich olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
Get a little fishy: Eat at least 2 (3½-ounce) servings of fish a week. Choose fish rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or mackerel.
Get some whole grains: Eat 3 (1-ounce) servings of whole grains a day. When eating foods such as cereal, bread or pasta, choose whole grain varieties at least half of the time.
Find the fiber: Eat at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day, from foods such as oatmeal and beans.
Eat like a bird: Eat 4 servings of unsalted nuts, seeds or legumes a week. Eat them on their own, or use them to liven up casseroles or stir-fry dishes.
Skip the sodium: Limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day. Monitor your use of the saltshaker and keep an eye on the sodium content of packaged foods.
Say no to processed meats: Limit your consumption of foods such as bologna or hot dogs to no more than 2 servings a week.
Remember portion control: Pay attention to portion control when eating meals at home, when eating out and when snacking. Enjoy favorite foods in moderation.
Don’t forget that drinks count: Don’t just watch what you eat; also keep an eye on what you drink. Consume no more than 450 calories of sugar-sweetened sodas, juices, energy drinks and other beverages a week. Remember that water is an effective and calorie-free thirst quencher.
To learn more about protecting your heart health, contact the Medical Center of Arlington. MCA is the first hospital in Tarrant County to receive full accreditation from the Society for Chest Pain Centers. We are committed to preventing heart disease, as well as treating existing cardiac conditions.
The Nutrition Source (Harvard School of Public Health)
Nutrition Center (American Heart Association)
Heart Nutrition and Recipes (USDA)