What’s are the heart healthy diets? What’s the best diet for heart health? Dietitians weigh in.
Nutrition experts discuss portion control, weight loss and the health benefits of eating a diet rich in heart-healthy foods.

“Eating for a healthy heart is one of the best tools to fight heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the U.S.,” Chris Rosenbloom told TODAY.

Even if your ticker is in top shape, health experts still want you to eat more heart-healthy foods. Really. “Eating for a healthy heart is one of the best tools to fight heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the U.S.,” Chris Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian based outside of Atlanta and author of “Food and Fitness After 50: Eat Well, Move Well, Be Well.” “That’s especially important because heart disease doesn’t just happen when you turn 66 or after a heart attack, it begins as early as childhood and progresses over a lifetime.”

How do heart healthy diets work?

A diet that supports your heart isn’t really a diet, per se. It’s a flexible roadmap that encourages eating more food that’s good for the heart, yet fewer foods linked to cardiovascular disease. Why? “Although heart disease has many factors, inflammation is at the core of the disease for most people,” Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian in San Francisco and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told TODAY. “A diet of overly processed foods, low-fiber refined grains, processed seed oils and few fruits and vegetables will contribute to inflammation and heart disease over time. But if you have a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, you will lower your risk.”

While eating for better heart health doesn’t require counting calories, it does emphasize portion control and maintaining a healthy body weight. That’s because a high body mass index, or BMI, can increase several risk factors for heart disease, such as:

• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol and triglycerides
• Type 2 diabetes

What does the research say about heart healthy diets?

If you’re wondering what does eating healthy do to your heart, the answer is lots of good things! According to the American Heart Association, a heart-focused diet that’s low in saturated fat can lower harmful LDL cholesterol by as much as 10 to 15%. Why is that important? Research reveals that people who have LDL cholesterol levels below 100 mg/dL are less likely to suffer from heart disease. Because a diet for heart health is also low in sodium (found in salt), it can additionally reduce blood pressure, another heart disease risk factor. In fact, a low-sodium diet is so effective that research suggests halving the amount of salt you consume can significantly decrease blood pressure in just 4 weeks.

Eating lots of heart-healthy diet foods doesn’t just prevent heart disease. It may also:

• Reduce the risk of stroke
• Help with weight loss
• Protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
What you’ll eat on a heart healthy diet

“Basically, a heart-healthy diet is based on eating plenty of produce and minimally processed foods every day,” said Angelone. When planning your heart-healthy foods list, follow the lead of American Heart Association.

Its heart-healthy diet definition favors a wide variety of these minimally-processed, whole foods:

• Fruits and vegetables
• Whole grains
• Beans and legumes
• Nuts and seeds
• Low-fat dairy products
• Fish
• Skinless poultry
• Olive, canola and avocado oils

Because foods rich in saturated fat, refined sugars and sodium may contribute to heart disease the American Heart Association also recommends:

• Limiting saturated fat to 5 to 6% of total calories
• Avoiding trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils
• Capping added sugars at roughly 6 teaspoons a day for women, 9 for men
• Cutting sodium to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams per day

Examples of heart healthy diets

You might be surprised to learn there’s no one best heart-healthy diet. There are several plans that have strong track records, especially:

• The DASH diet
• Vegan and vegetarian diets
• The MIND diet
• The Mediterranean diet

Click here to read full article about best diets for heart health.