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Eat healthy to help prevent heart disease

[JAN. 2, 2007]  ROCKVILLE, Md. -- What kills Americans most? Heart disease. It's the No.1 cause of death in this country.

You can lower your chances of getting heart disease. One way is to choose foods carefully.

For a healthy heart, eat:

  • Less fat.

  • Less sodium.

  • Fewer calories.

  • More fiber.

Eat less fat

Some fats are more likely to cause heart disease -- saturated fats and trans fats. These fats are usually found in foods from animals, such as meat, milk, cheese and butter. Saturated and trans fats also are found in foods with palm and coconut oils. Eat less of these foods.

Eat less sodium

Eating less sodium can help lower some people's blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sodium is something we need in our diets, but most of us eat too much of it. Much of the sodium we eat comes from salt we add to our food at the table or that food companies add to their foods. So, avoid adding salt to foods at the table.

Eat fewer calories

When we eat more calories than we need, we gain weight. Being overweight can cause heart disease. When we eat fewer calories than we need, we lose weight.

Eat more fiber

Eating fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains may help lower your chances of getting heart disease.

Diet tips for a healthy heart

  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat, especially animal fats and palm and coconut oils.

  • Add foods to your diet that are high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil and seafood.

  • Eat foods containing polyunsaturated fats found in plants and seafood. Safflower oil and corn oil are high in polyunsaturated fats.

  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.

  • Maintain or improve your weight.

  • Eat plenty of grain products, fruits and vegetables.

Instead of this, do this:

  • Instead of whole or 2 percent milk and cream, use 1 percent or skim milk.

  • Instead of fried foods, eat baked, steamed, boiled, broiled or microwaved foods.

  • Instead of lard, butter, palm and coconut oils, cook with unsaturated vegetable oils, such as corn, olive, canola, safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower or peanut oil.

  • Instead of fatty cuts of meat, such as prime rib, eat lean cuts of meat or cut off the fatty parts.

  • Instead of one whole egg in recipes, use two egg whites.

  • Instead of sour cream and mayonnaise, use plain low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, or low-fat or "light" sour cream.

  • Instead of sauces, butter and salt, season vegetables with herbs and spices.

  • Instead of regular hard and processed cheeses, eat low-fat, low-sodium cheeses.

  • Instead of salted potato chips and other snacks, choose low-fat, unsalted tortilla and potato chips and unsalted pretzels and popcorn.

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Read the food label

The food label can help you eat less fat and sodium, fewer calories, and more fiber.

Look for certain words on food labels. The words can help you spot foods that may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease. The FDA has set rules on how these words can be used. So, if the label says "low-fat," the food must be low in fat.

Look at the side or back of the package. Here, you will find "Nutrition Facts." Look for these words:

  • Total fat

  • Saturated fat

  • Cholesterol

  • Sodium

Look at the "% Daily Value" listed next to each term. If it is 5 percent or less for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, the food is low in these nutrients. That's good. It means the food fits in with a diet that may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease.

Tips for losing weight

  • Eat smaller portions.

  • Avoid second helpings.

  • Eat less fat by staying away from fried foods, rich desserts and chocolate candy. Foods with a lot of fat have a lot of calories.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Eating for a healthy heart

You can lower your chances of getting heart disease. One way is through your diet.


  • Eat less fat and sodium.

  • Reduce your calories if you're overweight.

  • Eat more fiber.

  • Eat a variety of foods, including plenty of bread, rice, cereal, fruit and vegetables.

  • If you drink beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

Some other things you can do

Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol level. This is done with a blood test. The test will show the amount of cholesterol in your blood with a number. Below 200 is good. The test will also show the amount of "good" and "bad" cholesterol. Your doctor can tell you more about what these numbers mean.

If your cholesterol is high, your doctor may suggest diet changes, exercise or drugs to bring it down.

Regular exercise -- such as walking, swimming or gardening -- can help you keep your weight and cholesterol down.

You will find an abundance of recipes to meet your new goal of eating healthy by checking "Cooking the Heart-Healthy Way."

For more information

  • If you have questions, you can call your nearest FDA office. Look for the number in the blue pages of the phone book.

  • Or call the FDA's toll-free food information line at 888-SAFEFOOD (723-3366).

  • Or look for the FDA on the Internet at

The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that makes sure that foods are safe, wholesome and honestly labeled.

Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane (HFI-40)
Rockville, MD 20857

[U.S. Food and Drug Administration]

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