Heart-Healthy Diet

A heart-healthy diet can help to prevent heart disease, or conditions that may lead to heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

A heart-healthy diet is one that is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium (salt).

Reducing Fat Intake

To reduce your fat intake and cholesterol, you’ll want to choose lean meats and other protein sources. Lean protein choices may include:

  • Fish (salmon, herring, tuna)
  • Skinless chicken
  • Lean beef (sirloin tip, round steak, rump roast, extra lean ground beef)
  • Beans
  • Skim or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese
  • Egg whites
  • Soybeans or soybean products

Avoid organ meats (for example, liver), processed meats (hot dogs, lunch meats, bacon, sausage), fried meats and egg yolks.

When choosing fats, you’ll want to choose unsaturated fats, as opposed to saturated fats or trans fats. Some of the healthier fat options for heart health include:

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Margarine with no trans fat
  • Seeds
  • Nuts (in moderation)

Foods to Include in a Heart-Healthy Diet

In addition to lean proteins, a heart-healthy diet should also include:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are the healthiest options. If you buy canned vegetables, make sure the can says “low sodium.” Do not buy canned fruits that are packed in syrup or fruits with added sugar.
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes

The easiest way to reduce your sodium intake is to not add salt to your foods. Because many packaged foods contain sodium, you’ll also want to read food labels before you buy. Your heart health goal is to limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day.

If You Have Heart Disease

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, a team of health care professionals at Wake Forest Baptist Health will help you with lifestyle changes, like a heart-healthy diet, that can improve your symptoms and prevent further damage to your heart. Your team may include heart and vascular doctors, nurse specialists, nutritionists and others.