Heart Healthy Eating: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Healthy eating is an important way to maintain heart health. In this article, we will provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about heart-healthy eating. We will discuss topics such as cholesterol, fat intake, cooking oils, omega-3 fats, fruits and vegetables, sugar intake, salt intake, portion sizes, and tips for eating out.

Cholesterol and High-Cholesterol Foods

If you have high cholesterol, it is important to choose foods that are lower in fat. Opt for lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, and lower-fat dairy products. Limit egg yolks to three per week. Shellfish, such as shrimp and squid, are low-fat alternatives to meat and can be enjoyed once a week. Scallops, mussels, lobster, and crab are very low in cholesterol and can be enjoyed more frequently.

Limiting Fat Intake

Limiting fat intake can be helpful for achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Choose foods that are low in saturated fats and trans fats. Opt for lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, and trim visible fat. Enjoy low-fat dairy products and avoid using hard margarine. Instead, use non-hydrogenated margarine.

Choosing the Best Cooking Oil

The best oils to cook with are olive oil and canola oil. Use heart-healthy cooking methods such as steaming, poaching, baking, roasting, and stir-frying. Avoid deep-frying or pan-frying to prevent excessive oil absorption.

The Benefits of Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fats are essential for raising healthy cholesterol levels and improving blood vessel elasticity. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines are the best sources of omega-3 fats. If you don't eat fish, you can get omega-3 from walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and wheat germ.

The Importance of Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber helps decrease cholesterol and blood pressure, promotes satiety, and aids in weight management. Aim to consume both soluble and insoluble fiber from a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Sugar Intake and Heart Health

Limit added sugars in your diet. Added sugars can increase weight and the risk of heart disease. Enjoy naturally occurring sugars in fruits and milk products. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, and cereals. Have treats occasionally, but don't make them a daily habit.

Reducing Salt Intake

Excessive sodium intake can increase blood pressure. Limit salt by avoiding adding it to your food. Use herbs and spices for flavor instead. Choose fresh foods over processed and packaged foods. Rinse canned products before use.

Heart Healthy Portion Sizes

Follow the plate method for portion control. Fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with high-fiber starchy foods. Include a glass of milk and fruit for dessert. Adapt the plate method for meals like pizza night.

Heart Healthy Tips for Eating Out

Choose dishes prepared using heart-healthy cooking methods. Opt for lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish, or legumes. Choose higher-fiber starch options and have dressings and sauces on the side. Don't forget to include vegetables in your meal.


Incorporating heart-healthy eating into your lifestyle is essential for maintaining heart health. If you have further questions, consult a registered dietitian as part of your healthcare team.

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