Kick-start your heart health with these nutrition tips

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Kentucky and the nation, accounting for one in every four deaths. Fortunately, there are many things you can do reduce your chances of getting heart disease, starting with a heart-healthy diet.

Foods to eat

To help limit your risk for heart disease and stroke, eat these types of food:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Try to make fruits and veggies at least half of each meal.
  • Whole grains. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. Look for these ingredients: whole wheat, whole oats, oatmeal, whole-grain corn, brown rice, wild rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, buckwheat, bulgur, millet and sorghum.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products. These include milk, calcium-fortified soy drinks (soy milk), cheese, yogurt and other milk products.
  • Seafood, skinless poultry, lean meats, beans, eggs and unsalted nuts.

Foods to avoid

Avoid the following ingredients to improve your heart health:

  • Saturated fats. Saturated fat is usually in pizza, ice cream, fried foods, many cakes and cookies, bacon, and hamburgers. Less than 10 percent of your daily calories should be from saturated fats.
  • Trans fats. These are found mainly in commercially prepared baked goods, snack foods, fried foods and margarine. Choose foods with zero trans fat.
  • Cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in foods made from animals, such as bacon, whole milk, cheese made from whole milk, ice cream, full-fat frozen yogurt and eggs. Fruits and vegetables do not contain cholesterol. Eggs are a major source of dietary cholesterol for Americans, but studies show that eating one egg a day does not increase the risk for heart disease in healthy people. You should eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
  • Sodium. Sodium is found in salt, but most of the sodium we eat does not come from salt we add while cooking or at the table. Most of our sodium comes from breads and rolls, cold cuts, pizza, hot dogs, cheese, pasta dishes and condiments (like ketchup and mustard). Limit your daily sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (equal to a teaspoon), unless your doctor recommends something else.
  • Added sugars. Foods like fruit and dairy products naturally contain sugar. But you should limit foods that contain added sugars. These include sodas, sports drinks, cake, candy and ice cream.

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