Heart-healthy eating involves choosing certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, while limiting others, such as saturated and trans fats and added sugars.
Your doctor may recommend the heart-healthy Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan because it has been proven to lower high blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood. Visit our Delicious Heart-Healthy Eating page for recipes, cooking tips, and more.
The following foods are the foundation of a heart-healthy eating plan.
A heart-healthy eating plan limits sodium (salt), saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and alcohol. Understanding nutrition labels can help you choose healthier foods. Visit How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to learn more.
Adults and children over age 14 should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Children younger than age 14 may need to eat even less sodium each day based on their sex and age. If you have high blood pressure, you may need to limit sodium even more. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about what amount of sodium is right for you or your child.
Try these shopping and cooking tips to help you choose and prepare foods that are lower in sodium:
Limit saturated fats
Saturated or “bad” fats come from animal sources such as butter, cheese, and fatty meats and should make up less than 10% of your daily calories. Read food labels and choose foods that are lower in these fats and higher in unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are also known as “good” fats and are found in vegetable oils and nuts.
Limit saturated fats by:
Learn more about limiting saturated fat from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Limit trans fats
Limit trans fats as much as possible by:
Dairy products and meats naturally contain very small amounts of trans fats. You do not need to avoid these foods because they have other important nutrients.
Limit added sugars
You should limit the amount of calories you get each day from added sugars. This will help you choose nutrient-rich foods and stay within your daily calorie limit.
Some foods, such as fruit, contain natural sugars. Added sugars do not occur naturally in foods but instead are used to sweeten foods and drinks. They include brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, and sucrose.
In the United States, sweetened drinks, snacks, and sweets are the major sources of added sugars.
Lower how much sugar you eat or drink by:
Talk to your doctor about how much alcohol you drink. Your doctor may recommend that you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink or that you stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol can:
If you do not drink, you should not start. You should not drink if you are pregnant, are under the age of 21, taking certain medicines, or if you have certain medical conditions, including heart failure.
Read the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to learn about what is considered one alcoholic drink and how calories vary by drink.
You should eat the right amount of calories for your body, which will vary based on your sex, age, and physical activity level. Remember that some healthy foods, including oils and dairy, can still have a lot of calories. Some fruits can have a lot of natural sugar, especially when they are dried. Develop a personalized food plan at Get Your MyPlate Plan.
You can visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more information about healthy eating and to read about their recommendations for the following healthy eating patterns.