Heart-Smart Basics

Find out what you need to know about eating a heart-healthy diet. Follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to optimum heart health.

Go for whole grains

Research shows that eating just 21/2 servings of whole grains per day is enough to lower your risk for heart disease. (One serving equals a slice of 100% whole-wheat bread or 1/3 cup cooked brown rice.) And it appears that greater whole-grain intake is associated with a decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Focus on healthy foods, and strive for variety

To fight heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends eating an assortment of nutritious foods daily. Make an effort to follow these diet guidelines to get the nutrients your body needs and add variety to your diet.

  • Eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings a week of fish, preferably oily fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel.
  • Consume at least 4 servings of nuts, legumes, and seeds a week.
  • Select fiber-rich whole grains and consume at least 3 servings a day.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week.
  • Limit processed meats to no more than 2 servings a week.
  • Limit saturated fat and trans fat to less than 7% and 1%, respectively, of total energy intake.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables in all the colors of the rainbow—be sure to eat at least 4 1/2 cups a day.