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Heart healthy eating one bite at a time

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Did you know that the foods you choose to fuel your body today, affects your heart tomorrow? Studies have shown that up to 70 percent of heart disease cases are preventable with the right food choices.

Here are a few recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle to keep your heart happy:


  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains (fiber > 3gms per serving).
  • Beans and legumes.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Fish (preferable oily fish that provide omega-3 fatty acids), skinless poultry, and plant-based alternatives.
  • Healthier fats such as olive oil and non-tropical oils.
  • Fat-free and low-fat dairy products.


  • Sodium and salt, pickled and smoked foods. Strive for < 1500mg Na/day.
  • Saturated fat.
  • Sweets and added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Red meats (if you choose to eat red meat, select lean cuts).
  • High fructose foods.
  • Alcohol.


  • Trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Processed foods loaded with sugar, salt and fat.


  • Choose wisely, even with healthier foods. Ingredients and nutrient content can vary.
  • Look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark in the grocery store to easily identify foods that can be part of an overall healthy diet. Learn more at heartcheck.org.
  • Compare nutrition information on package labels and select foods with the lowest amounts of sodium, added sugars, saturated and trans fat, and no partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Watch your calorie intake. To maintain weight, consume only as many calories as you use up through physical activity. If you need to lose weight, consume fewer calories and burn more.
  • Eat reasonable portions. Often this is less than you are served. Avoid foods such as dips and finger-food snacks that are difficult to gauge amounts consumed.
  • Prepare and eat healthy meals at home. You’ll have more control over ingredients and portion sizes.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients your body needs, most of which are prevalent in fruits and vegetables. Deeply colored fruits and vegetables are highest in micronutrients.
  • Do aerobic exercise four to five times a week and include strength training three to four times per week.

For more heart-healthy diet options, consider the Mediterranean or Dash diet for a well-balanced eating plan.

Learn your risk for heart disease with AAMC’s free heart health profiler at askAAMC.org/Heart.

Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford are nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them, call 443-481-5555.

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