American Heart Association's Heart-Healthy Diet

by Alia Butler

About Alia Butler

Alia Butler holds a Master of Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis, concentrating in mental health, and a Master of Arts in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University. Currently, Butler is a freelance writer, penning articles focusing on mental health, healthy living and issues surrounding work-life balance. She is the principle/owner of ALIA Living, LLC, providing residential interior design services, professional organizing and life coaching.


The American Heart Association has the mission of preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. With this mission in mind, the AHA has developed certain heart-healthy dietary guidelines. The AHA heart-healthy diet is one that helps you keep cholesterol and blood pressure within normal levels and reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Following a diet that fits within AHA recommendations can help keep your heart healthy.

Limit Cholesterol Intake

The AHA recommends that your dietary intake of cholesterol should not exceed 300 milligrams per day to help keep your blood cholesterol at healthy levels. Since your liver and other tissues make adequate amounts of cholesterol for your body, any that you get through diet is primarily extra. Cholesterol is found only in animal foods.

Control Your Fats

Overall, for a heart-healthy diet, the AHA suggests that no more than 35 percent of your total daily calories should be consumed in the form of fat. The AHA further recommends that the majority of your fat calories should be in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Your saturated fat intake should not exceed 7 percent of your daily calories. The AHA suggests that trans fats are not heart-healthy and that you should avoid them as much as possible, limiting intake to no more than 1 percent of total daily calories.

Avoid High-Salt Foods

High amounts of salt, or sodium chloride, are found in many foods, and eating too much salt can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. According to the AHA, a heart-healthy diet should limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.

Increase Fiber Intake

The AHA suggests a diet comprised of fiber-rich foods such as beans, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for men. According to the AHA, a heart-healthy diet includes four and one-half daily cups of fruits and vegetables and at least three, 1-ounce servings of whole-grain foods.

Include Fatty Fish

Omega-3 fatty acids can help keep your cholesterol levels down, reduce your blood pressure and help you avoid heart disease. The AHA reports that two servings of fatty fish should be included in your weekly diet to provide you with a heart-healthy amount of omega-3 fats.

Drink in Moderation

Alcohol can contribute to an unhealthy heart if consumed in more than moderate amounts. The AHA suggests that your alcohol intake be limited to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink a day for women to follow a heart-healthy diet.

Eat Nuts

Nuts are touted as being a heart-healthy food because they contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats and are loaded with other nutrients that protect your heart, including plant sterols and fiber. The AHA recommends that you consume four serving of nuts throughout the week to glean these heart-healthy benefits.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or