Mind and Body

10 diet decisions for better heart health

Here's how to protect your most important muscle.

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It’s no secret that a balanced diet and regular exercise can help keep your heart healthy.

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But instead of restricting yourself to certain foods or types of physical activity, it’s often more productive to look at the whole picture of your dietary and exercise habits.

So, what makes someone’s lifestyle truly heart healthy?

10 key guidelines released November 2 by the American Heart Association provide a starting place for approaching heart health holistically.

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The AHA’s 2021 dietary guidelines give advice that will probably sound familiar.

But the broad approach of their 10 key points is meant to be adaptable to people across cultures and lifestyles, offering a template rather than restrictive rules.

Here are 10 diet decisions that support good heart health:

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10. Balance

Maintain a healthy weight by balancing food/calorie intake with exercise.

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9. Diversify

Eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables so that you’re getting nutrients from many sources, and not relying on supplements.

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8. Be picky

Choose whole grain foods or foods made of mostly whole grains.

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7. Limit

Watch your intake of red and processed meats, and opt instead for plant proteins, lean meats, and seafood.

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6. Choose

Pick minimally processed foods over ultra-processed foods as much as possible.

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5. Swap

Use liquid plant oils when preparing food, like olive oil, rather than tropical oils, like coconut oil. Also limit the use of partially hydrogenated fats, which contain trans fats.

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4. Minimize

Limit your intake of beverages and foods with added sugars.

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3. Prepare

When cooking or baking, try to use little to no salt. This also applies when eating at restaurants or away from home.

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2. Refrain

Set limits on your alcohol consumption. If you don’t drink, don’t start.

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1. Apply

Use these guidelines everywhere, while at home or away. Consistency is key!

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