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September 11, 2019

Heart disease is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada.

Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to protect your heart and overall health.

What is heart healthy eating?

Heart healthy eating emphasizes an overall balance of whole, nutritious foods. These include plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, lean proteins, and plant-based proteins. It limits foods that are highly processed or refined.


Healthy eating can help lower your risk of heart disease by
• improving cholesterol levels
• lowering blood pressure
• managing body weight
• controlling blood sugar levels

What can I do to eat a heart-healthy diet?

1) Select fat sources wisely
• Use small amount of healthy fats in your diet. Examples include:
• Vegetable based fats or unsaturated fats, e.g. olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sunflower oil
• Non- hydrogenated margarine
• Unsalted nuts and seeds, and nut butters
• Avocado
• Eat fish high in omega-3 fats such as salmon, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardine. Aim for at least 2 times each week.

• Limit intake of saturated fats
• Choose lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, dried beans, lentils and peas, and tofu.
• Choose lower fat dairy products, e.g. skim, 1% or 2% milk, lower fat cheese with 20% or less milk fat (M.F.).

• Avoid trans fat, if possible. Examples to avoid are:
• Commercially prepared baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarine and vegetable shortening made with hydrogenated oils

2) Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
• Choose a variety of vegetables and fruits every day.
• Fill half of your plate with vegetables at meals.
• Choose vegetables and/or fruits for snacks and dessert.

3) Choose whole grains and food high in fibre.
• Make at least half of your grain products whole grains. Some examples include: steel cut oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, and whole grain bread.
• Choose foods rich in soluble fibre. Some examples include: oat bran, oatmeal, dried peas, beans and lentils, barley, psyllium, apples, strawberries and citrus fruits.

4) Reduce intake of added sugar.
• Limit sugar and sweets such as white and brown sugar, honey, molasses, syrups, candies, chocolate, pastries and desserts.
• Limit drinks with added sugar such as regular soft drinks, juices, and sweetened teas and coffees.

5) Reduce intake of sodium.
• Limit salty foods such as pickles, snack foods, processed meat, canned soup, sauces, and condiments.
• Use little or no salt in cooking. Season your food with herbs, spices, garlic and onion instead of salt.
• Avoid shaking salt on food.

6) Limit alcohol intake.
• If you drink alcohol, limit to 2 or less drinks per day for women and 3 or less drinks per day for men.
• “A drink” means:
• 12 ounces (341 ml) of beer
• 5 ounces (142 ml) of wine
• 1.5 ounces (43 ml) of liquor

7) Prepare meals at home more often.
• Use fresh, whole foods.
• Use healthy cooking methods such as baking, steaming, broiling, roasting and poaching.

8) Read food labels and make informed choices.
• Use food label to choose products lower in saturated fat and trans fat, sodium and sugar.

It may seem like there is a lot to learn at first. Focus on one or two small, achievable changes at a time.

That, over time, will add up to make a big difference in your heart health and overall health.


Health Canada
Heart Healthy Eating. Alberta Health Services.
Healthy Eating Guidelines to Prevent Heart Disease. Dietitians of Canada.
Healthy Eating: Eating Heart-Healthy Foods. HealthLink BC.
Heart and Stroke Canada.

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