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6 tips to keep a heart-healthy diet

By Kate Rockwood


Most of us don’t think much about our hard-working hearts unless something goes wrong. It’s a pretty amazing organ that pumps blood through a more than 60,000-mile long network of blood vessels. We literally can’t live without it, so it makes sense to give our heart the support it needs. That includes eating a heart-healthy diet.


What exactly does that mean? That’s a diet that’s good for your blood pressure and cholesterol levels along with other factors for heart disease. And don’t worry, it doesn’t just mean eating bland food. But it does mean eating a diet full of fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean meats, and fatty fish. And trying to limit added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. 


Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to be tough—here are six tips to help you stick to it. 

1.  Look for heart-healthy fats 

Fat has a bad reputation, but there are types of fats that are really good for you. Look for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can actually protect against heart disease by improving your blood cholesterol levels. Where can you find these healthy fats? Great sources are nuts, seeds, olives, vegetable oils, avocados, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. 

2. Think lean

That being said, there are some fats you should go easy on. Those are known as saturated fats and they are mostly found in animal products like butter, cheese, and fatty meats like lamb, beef, and pork. The American Heart Association recommends getting 5%-6% of your daily calories from saturated fats. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat, but choose leaner cuts or make them learner by removing the skin. Skinless turkey and chicken, for example, are leaner than red meat. Also choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products.

3. Season without salt

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, and most of us eat way more sodium than the recommended 2,300 mg a day—which is just one teaspoon! That salt usually comes from prepackaged foods. Here are some of the biggest store bought salt-bombs to watch out for: 

  • Processed meats like cold cuts

  • Pizza and pasta sauces

  • Bread

  • Soup

  • Salt seasonings 

  • Chicken 

To lower how much sodium you get in your diet, think about making your own pasta sauces, soups, and salad dressings or choose lower-sodium versions at the store. Also, be on the lookout for vegetables that were canned without added salt. And instead of automatically reaching for the salt shaker to boost the flavor of your food, experiment with fresh herbs, spices, and a squeeze of lemon or lime first.

4. Drink more water 

Water is pretty much the perfect beverage. It gives your body everything it needs without the extra calories, sugar or salt. One study found that people who upped their water intake by just 1%, also ate less saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. Which is good news for your heart. If you can swap just one non-water beverage a day with water, that’s a great start. To add a little more excitement to your H2O, add a lemon or lime wedge or a slice of cucumber. 

5. Fill up on fiber

Foods that are high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, are great for your heart because they can help lower your bad cholesterol. As a plus, high-fiber foods also make you feel full longer, so they can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. These foods aren’t hard to find. They include whole fruits and veggies like apples, bananas, peaches, pears, lettuce, spinach, raw carrots, and broccoli. Other good choices are beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, and whole-grain or whole-wheat breads and pastas.

6. Up your produce game

You can never go wrong with eating more fruits and veggies. They contain important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They’re usually low in calories and sodium and some are high in potassium, a nutrient that can help you manage high blood pressure or maintain a healthy blood pressure. All fruits and veggies are good for you, and they all bring different health benefits to the table. That’s why you should “eat the rainbow”—aka eat a variety of different colored fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends eating at least 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit a day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables. 


Good ways to get more produce into your life include keeping fresh fruit on the counter where you can see it, cutting up veggies for ready-to-go snacks like hummus and carrot sticks, adding fruit to yogurt and oatmeal, and making veggie-friendly meals like soups and stews.

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