Nutrition Articles

Eating for a Healthy Heart

A Heart-Healthy Diet Plan


DO cut back on fat. To reduce your risk of heart disease you need to choose the right types of fat, and make sure that you're not eating too much fat in general. Most adults eat too much fat, regardless of the source, so cutting back on dietary fat is a good first step to a heart healthy diet. That's why choosing low-fat products, baking or broiling instead of frying, and reducing or omitting the fats that recipes call for (think: oil, shortening, lard) are important first steps to get your fat intake in line. Avoid fats that elevate your cholesterol levels: trans fats (hydrogenated oils found in baked goods and many margarines) and saturated fats (usually found in high-fat meats and dairy products, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry, beef fat, cream, lard, butter, cheese and dairy products made with whole or 2% milk, as well as baked goods and fried foods that contain palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil). About 25-35% of your total calories for the day should come from fat sources. For someone eating 1,500 calories per day, that's about 41-58 grams of fat. SparkPeople's meal plans and nutrition ranges meet this guideline, so if you track your food and are within your daily fat goal, you are meeting this recommendation.

DON'T fear all fats. Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, certain types of fat, such as monounsaturated fat and Omega-3s, actually promote heart health. Once you've gotten your fat intake in line, focus on making heart-smart fat choices to meet your daily recommendations. Fats found in nuts, olive, soybean and canola oils, fish and seafood.

DO imbibe in moderation (if you drink). Research indicates that a moderate alcohol intake has been associated with a decreased risk for certain cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary heart disease. A moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. To find out if a moderate alcohol intake is appropriate for you, talk to your doctor about your consumption of alcohol, medical history, and any medications you use. Learn more about alcohol and your heart.

DON'T start drinking alcohol if you aren't already a drinker. There are other, healthier ways to reduce your risk of heart disease rather than drinking alcohol, which also comes with its own set of risks and can lead to problems. If you don't drink now, don't start. Other healthy habits (like not smoking, eating right, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight) can also help you reduce your risk of heart disease.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Becky Hand seems stuck inthe past when giving us information about healthy fats and grains. Canola and soybean are NOT healthy oils. Grains, especially wheat, raise our blood sugars. Both groups create inflammation which is bad for our hearts. - 9/17/2015 10:47:52 AM
  • Although this article is from 2011, I think most of the information is right on. We often hear that it's OK to eat egg yolks. Well yeah, but within reason and even the Egg Council admits that 25 to 30% of the population have a genetic need to limit dietary cholesterol. That's a LOT of people! I'm one of them. As for fats, yes HEALTHY fats are fine, but most people want to eat the chocolate cake not the oily salmon. - 9/7/2015 11:17:12 AM
  • Wish there was a way to EDIT our comments.
    Wanted to add kudos to accurate info re: fruits/vegetables & refined (added) sugars.
    ...and fix a typo. - 9/6/2015 11:25:07 AM
  • Agree with sunshine65--artic
    le needs to be updated, all sources are from 2011.
    One of the problems with Canola & Soybean oil is the prevalence of GMO sources.
    Eggs (yolks) are no longer vilified. - 9/6/2015 11:18:50 AM
  • I was going to say that also as I heard that saturated fats are apparently not necessarily the villains that they were once thought of as. My grandpa ate a diet high in meat and lived to be 97 and did not have any heart problems. - 3/4/2015 8:21:40 PM
  • This article needs to be rewritten. A lot of the sodium, fat and cholesterol information is totally wrong by todays scientific studies. Please replace this with a new article. - 2/28/2015 9:53:36 PM
    Very nice article!
    .com - 7/22/2014 11:51:47 AM
  • Great article. - 12/24/2013 8:09:06 AM
  • Kudos to KPILVER, 2SNOWCRANES and DMATTISON :)) Thankfully people are starting to pay attention to the problems with wheat and other carbs. Try no sugar and no grains for 2 weeks. Your body will thank you. There are low carb teams here to help. - 9/4/2013 4:02:14 PM
    Thanks very good information♡
    ;♡ - 9/4/2013 2:48:54 PM
    Thanks very good information♡
    ;♡ - 9/4/2013 2:46:42 PM
  • Good comments - thanks. - 7/5/2013 6:52:13 AM
    Canola Oil is:

    Low in saturated fat: Saturated fat raises the bad LDL cholesterol in your blood and has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease.

    A source of omega-6 fat: Omega-6 fat must be consumed in your diet and is important for the brain and essential for the growth and development of infants.

    High in omega-3 fat: Omega-3 fat must also be consumed in your diet and helps protect against heart attacks and strokes.

    High in monounsaturated fat: Monounsaturated fat may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering bad LDL cholesterol in the blood and helping control blood glucose.

    Cholesterol and trans fat free: Trans fat raises bad LDL cholesterol and lowers good HDL cholesterol.
    - 7/4/2013 11:32:17 AM
    To those of you who are looking for the answer to the same question I had- What is Canola Oil? I recommend that you read pages 102-103 of "The Science of Skinny" by Dee McCaffrey for the answer. This article reenforces what we pretty much already know. Eat fresh, read labels and exercise. - 7/4/2013 11:01:29 AM
    Canola is not rapeseed. While canola's origins were in rapeseed, the two plants are not the same. Their nutritional profiles are very different - 7/4/2013 10:49:09 AM

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