Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet

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IMAGE A heart-healthy lifestyle is not about deprivation. It is about eating more—more fruits, more vegetables, more whole grains, and more unsaturated fats. When you focus on putting more of these nutrient-rich foods in your diet, there is naturally less room for the not-so-heart-friendly foods—those high in saturated fat and low in nutrients.

Healthy eating habits can help you reduce three of the major risk factors for heart attack:

So how does this translate into your grocery list and onto your dinner plate? To help you eat the heart healthy way, The American Heart Association has created some guidelines. By 2020, the association hopes to improve the heart health of Americans by 20%, and reduce death due to stroke and heart disease by 20%. Follow these dietary guidelines to improve and/or maintain your heart health:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 4½ cups each day.
  • Eat a variety of fiber-rich whole grains. Eat at least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day.
  • Include protein, such as fat-free and low-fat milk products, fish, legumes, beans, skinless poultry, and lean, white meats. Limit red meats and processed meat. For nuts, legumes, and seeds, eat at least four servings a week. For processed meats, eat no more than two servings a week. When eating fish, choose oily fish, like salmon. Eat at least two, 3½-ounce servings a week.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and/or cholesterol, such as full-fat milk products, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and egg yolks. Instead choose foods low in saturated fat,and cholesterol from the first three points above. Saturated fat should be less than 7% of your total energy intake. Try to eliminate intake of trans fats, which are found in snack foods, fried foods, and pastries.
  • Limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition, including foods like soft drinks and candy that have a lot of sugars. For sugar-sweetened beverages, do not have more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week.
  • Eat less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. Read food labels to look for hidden salt, which may appear as sodium.
  • Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day if you're a woman and no more than two if you're a man.

Note: Recommendations based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

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Drink extra fluids throughout pregnancy to help your body keep up with the increases in your blood volume. It is important to drink at least six to eight glasses of water, fruit juice or milk each day.