What to Eat for a Healthy Heart

February is recognized as American Heart Month, which means there’s no better time than now to learn more about heart-disease prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States — but steps can be taken to reverse this dangerous trend, starting with eating heart-healthy foods, exercising, quitting smoking, and partnering with your doctor for early detection. If you’re following the South Beach Diet, you’re well on your way to lowering your risk of heart disease.

"The good news is that due to recent advances in understanding, detecting, and treating heart disease, I believe we have reached a point where the great majority of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented," explains Dr. Arthur Agatston, leading preventive cardiologist and author of The South Beach Heart Health Revolution and The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call. "One of the most important things you can do to prevent heart disease is to practice heart-healthy eating," he says. "By enjoying the wide range of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods that we emphasize on the South Beach Diet, you automatically take a big step toward reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke."

Here are Dr. Agatston’s basic guidelines for heart-healthy eating:

  1. Eat good carbohydrates. Good carbs include high-fiber, nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

     

  2. Eat good fats. Choose good unsaturated fats found in extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Good fats can also be found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring.

     

  3. Eat lean protein. The best sources include skinless white-meat poultry, fish and shellfish, lean cuts of meat, and soy-based options such as tofu, as well as legumes, eggs, nuts, and seeds.

     

  4. Eat fat-free or reduced-fat dairy. Your best choice for dairy products is fat-free or reduced-fat varieties of milk, cheese, and yogurt. These dairy products have less saturated fat and calories than the whole-milk versions.
 
If you follow these basic guidelines, you can put together delicious, satisfying, and healthy meals and snacks — and take an important step toward a healthier heart.

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