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The Healthy Heart Diet

A diet that is healthy for your heart is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Other healthy choices are to increase your intake of fiber and decrease how much sugar, sodium and salt you eat. By learning to read food labels, you can determine the amount of sodium, sugar or cholesterol in a product and make healthier food choices.

Reduce Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

To protect your heart, you must reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Choose low-fat, low-cholesterol foods whenever possible.

Healthy Choices:

  • Canola oil, olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts
  • Non-fat or 1% milk; non-fat or low-fat yogurt
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, plain frozen vegetables
  • Whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, pretzels
  • Fish*, white-meat chicken and turkey, dried beans, tofu, lean cuts of meat

*Children and pregnant women should avoid eating fish with the highest level of mercury contamination.

Low-Fat Cooking

  • Broil, roast, bake, steam or microwave fish, chicken, turkey and lean cuts of red meat
  • Remove the skin of chicken and cut the extra fat off meat before you cook it
  • Brown meat under the broiler
  • Use broth instead of fat
  • Use nonstick pans or cooking sprays
  • Steam or microwave vegetables, and serve with herbs or non-fat, butter-flavored seasoning

Eat Less Sugar

Research indicates that a diet high in sugar can increase your risk of heart disease. For a healthier heart, reduce the amount of sweets in your daily diet.

Choose:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Homemade dessert breads such as pumpkin, zucchini and cranberry
  • Club soda, seltzer water or mineral water

Avoid:

  • Sweet snacks and candy
  • Store-bought pies, cookies and other packaged baked goods

Decrease Sodium and Salt

Sodium is in salt. It is used to flavor and preserve foods. In some people, sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Read Food Labels

On food labels, the section labeled Nutrition Facts will tell you how much sodium is in a product. Also, check the list of ingredients. Look for the words "salt" or "sodium." If either word is listed at the beginning of the list or more than once, the food probably has a lot of sodium.

On a food label:
Sodium free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very Low sodium: 35 mg or less of sodium per serving
Low sodium: 140mg or less of sodium per serving
Reduced sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the regular product
Light or lite: At least 50 percent less sodium per serving than the regular product
No salt added: No salt is added to a product that normally has salt added

Eat More Fiber

A diet high in fiber can help lower your cholesterol. Adults need about 25 grams of fiber each day. Check the chart below to see how much fiber you're getting in your diet.

Food: Serving size: Fiber content:
(in grams)
Apple
1 small
3.1
Banana
1 medium
1.8
Raw carrot
1 medium
3.7
Green beans
1/2 cup
1.2
Orange
1 small
1.8
Shredded wheat
2 biscuits
6.1
Whole-wheat bread
1 slice
2.4

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