Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet

A heart-healthy lifestyle is about eating more—more fruits, more veggies, more whole grains, and more unsaturated fats. There is less room for foods that are not heart-healthy when a person focuses more on these nutrient-rich foods.

Healthy eating habits can help a person lower 3 of the major risk factors for heart attack:

The American Heart Association has created these guidelines to help people eat a heart-healthy diet:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and veggies. Eat at least 4 to 5 servings each day.
  • Eat a variety of fiber-rich whole grains. Eat at least 6 servings of grains a day. A person should aim to make half of their grains whole grains.
  • 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 4 to 5 servings a week. For lean meats, poultry, and seafood, eat less than 6 ounces a day. When eating fish, choose oily fish, like salmon.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, such as full-fat milk or other dairy products, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and egg yolks. Instead, choose foods low in saturated fat, and cholesterol. Try not to eat trans fats, which are found in snack foods, fried foods, and pastries.
  • Limit the intake of foods that are high in calories or low in nutrition, such as soft drinks and candy. For sweets and items with added sugar, stick to 5 or fewer servings per week.
  • Eat less than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day. Read food labels to look for sodium on the label.
  • Women should have no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day. Men should have no more than 2.

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


American Heart Association
United States Department of Agriculture


Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada


Dietary considerations for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Accessed August 26, 2020.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: Accessed August 26, 2020.
Nutrition basics. American Heart Association website. Available at:
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Accessed August 27, 2020.
United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Department of Agriculture (DHHS/DA). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, 8th edition. DHHS/DA 2015.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardDianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 3/2/2021

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