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Eating for a healthy heart

bell peppers

to reduce risk of heart disease

What you eat — and what you don't — can make a big difference in preventing heart disease and improving your health if you already have heart disease.

Choose healthy foods every day

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower rates of heart disease. Following these tips may help keep your heart and blood vessels in good shape and benefit your health overall.

  • Eat a variety of unprocessed, home-cooked foods.
  • Eat plant-based foods every day, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds.
  • Get 5 or more servings of vegetables a day and 2 to 3 servings of fruit.
  • Use olive and canola oils for cooking.
  • Avoid foods high in trans fats, such as store-bought crackers, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, margarine, and fast food. Watch out for "partially hydrogenated oil" on the ingredient list.
  • Enjoy at least 2 fatty fish meals per week, such as wild salmon, trout, chunk light tuna, or halibut.
  • Replace red meat with fish or poultry. Red meat, if eaten at all, should be limited to 1 or 2 times per month.
  • Eat 3 servings a day of low-fat or nonfat dairy, such as milk, cheese or yogurt.
  • Limit egg yolks to 4 per week.
  • Have fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Choose and prepare foods with less salt. Use lemon juice, herbs, wine, and spices to flavor food.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are "heart healthy" because they help reduce the risk of heart disease by:

  • decreasing the risk of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), which can lead to sudden cardiac death
  • reducing the risk of clots forming
  • making plaque buildup in your arteries more stable
  • lowering triglyceride levels
  • reducing inflammation

Use our online HealthMedia® Nourish® program to create your own personalized heart-healthy eating plan.

Learn more about eating a heart-healthy diet.

Reviewed by: Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD, May 2011
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

©2011 Kaiser Permanente

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