tips for your heart healthy diet

A healthy diet can make a big difference in lowering your risk for heart disease. Diet advice is everywhere, but do you know how to pick foods that are heart healthy? The best food choices help control your risk factors, like your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose level. Not sure where to begin? Find out now.

The Basics for Heart-Healthy Eating

A heart healthy eating plan includes fresh, whole foods that are:

  • Lower in fat
  • Lower in cholesterol
  • Lower in sodium
  • Higher in fiber

Heart-Healthy Fruits & Vegetables

  • Fresh or without added salt, sugar, and fat
  • Good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants
  • Lower in fat and calories
  • Cholesterol free

Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables each day.

Whole Grains

  • Contain fiber, B vitamins, and minerals
  • Eating whole grains as part of a healthy diet may lower your risk of heart disease.

Always read food labels, and make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain.

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  • Good source of protein, minerals, and soluble fiber
  • Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol

Beans come in many shapes and sizes, so add them to your soups, salads, and other dishes for a heart healthy kick.

Lean Beef or Pork, Poultry, & Fish

  • Good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals
  • Fish and poultry without skin are heart-healthy protein choices
  • Bake, broil, or grill — don’t fry

Go for fish with omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, trout, and herring.


  • Low fat or fat-free dairy products without added sugar are heart-healthy choices
  • Good source of potassium, which may help with blood pressure control
  • Rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein

Choose low-fat, fat-free, and 1 percent milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Fats & Oils

Not all fats and oils are the same, and it’s important to know the good from the bad.

“Good” fats

  • Liquid vegetable oils like canola, olive, peanut, safflower, and sesame
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and help to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke

Nuts and seeds are easy on-the-go snacks and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Remember, nuts are also high in calories, so keep an eye on your serving size.

“Bad” fats

  • Saturated fats, which should be limited in your diet, come from animal products and tropical oils, like:
    • Fatty cuts of meat, poultry skin, butter
    • Whole or 2 percent milk, cream, and cheese
    • Coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Hydrogenated fats contain trans fats, which should be avoided

Always check labels for the type and amount of fat in foods.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.