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Weight-Loss Software > Healthy Heart Diets

Healthy Heart Diets Made Easy

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

As any cardiologist or dietitian can tell you, you don’t have to eat an exotic diet to lower your heart risks -- you just need to cut back on certain foods that you already eat, while eating more of others. Rarely will you have to introduce a food that you’ve never eaten before. And rarely will you have to give up a food that you like.

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Foods to Shun

Healthy heart diets usually limit your intake of the following:

Foods high in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), which promote formation of artery-clogging plaque. Examples: meat, whole milk, cheese, butter, pie, cake, cookies, and fried items such as donuts, French fries, onion rings, and potato chips.

Foods high in cholesterol, which also promotes plaque formation. Examples: organ meats (especially liver), shrimp, and egg yolks.

Foods high in sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Examples: canned or dried soups, potato chips, pretzels, Chinese food, certain pickled foods (especially olives), and processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, bologna, salami, pepperoni, and Spam.

Foods high in added sugar, which provide "empty" calories promoting weight gain. Examples: sweetened cereals (some of these get more than half their calories from sugar), soft drinks, candy, cakes, pies, and cookies.

Healthy heart diets do not altogether omit such foods. If you simply make a point of eating only half your usual serving, you’ll go a long way to reducing your cardio risks.

Foods to Seek

Healthy heart diets usually recommend eating more of the following:

Foods high in potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure. Examples: cantaloupe, bananas, potatoes, peanut butter, and nuts.

Fruits and vegetables, which provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals that contribute to heart health.

Low- or no-fat dairy foods, which provide health-promoting nutrients without contributing to plaque formation. Examples: skim milk, nonfat cottage cheese, yogurt.

Whole grains, which can lower your heart risks by 20 to 30 percent. Examples: whole-wheat bread, oat bran, brown rice.

Fish, which can lower your heart risks by an additional 20 to 30 percent. This is especially true of cold-water fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, herring, and sardines.

Healthy heart diets don’t overload you with these. If you just eat enough to replace some of the calories you lost by cutting back on fats, cholesterol, and sugar, you’ll gradually become slimmer, healthier, and less likely to have heart problems.

Bottom Line

Compared with average diets, healthy heart diets are not different in kind, but only in their balance of fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, potassium, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, and fish. Most people will hardly notice that you're eating a special diet. Sooner than you might expect, you won't notice, either.


*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading maker of nutrition and weight-loss software.

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Last modified November 28, 2010

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