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What Are the Best Tips for Choosing Heart-Healthy Diets?

Heart-healthy diets are important for everyone, but they are especially important for people who suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, or other cardiac illnesses. Some heart function is naturally lost with age, and adhering to a nutritious diet that benefits the heart is an excellent way to improve heart health and delay or slow the progression of cardiac problems. Heart-healthy diets can include many different foods, but the major components of a cardiac-friendly diet are low sodium, low saturated and trans fats, and low cholesterol.

High levels of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. Using fresh spices and herbs when cooking instead of table salt and other high-sodium products, such as soy sauce, can help reduce the total amount of dietary sodium. Prepared and canned foods are often high in sodium, so avoiding these products is best for heart-healthy diets. If canned or frozen dinners are consumed, they should be reduced sodium products. Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and older adults or those with a high risk of heart problems should limit their daily intake of sodium to 1,500 mg.

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Saturated and trans fats increase blood cholesterol, which can lead to clogged arteries and other heart problems. Heart-healthy diets should contain less than seven percent of daily calories from trans fats and less than one percent of daily calories from saturated fats. Butter, lard, heavy creams, and cocoa butter are some of the largest sources of saturated and trans fats. Choosing healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil and canola oil rather than vegetable oil, adds more monounsaturated fat to the diet, which is a healthier source of fat.

Fatty and fried meats should also be avoided in favor of lower fat protein sources, such as soy products, skinless poultry, and fish. Fish is particularly beneficial for people choosing heart-healthy diets because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower fats in the blood. Beans, peas, and egg whites are other sources of low-fat, low-cholesterol protein.

Most healthy adults should consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. People who take cholesterol medication or have high levels of low-density lipoproteins should aim for no more than 200 mg per day. Choosing healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, helps create a feeling of fullness, which can reduce the temptation to turn to snacks high in cholesterol.

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