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Who better than the American Heart Association (besides, your doctor) to give heart health diet and lifestyle recommendations. They are the organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke by funding cardiovascular medical research, educating consumers on healthy living, and fostering appropriate cardiac care.

One of the concepts the American Heart Association (AHA) advocates is Eat Smart. It’s simply what it sounds like. Making smart food choices by becoming more educated on and aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to nutritional value, benefits, and drawbacks of the foods you eat.

First, eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Not if you don’t know what the five basic food groups are. So, here’s your crash course:

  • breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles and other grains
  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives
  • meat: fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, and legumes

The trick is to choose the better-for-you options in each group as often as possible. That means whole grain breads and pastas, fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced fat dairy products, and lean meats and fish.

Another tip is to limit saturated fat and trans-fat and replace them with the better fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. This means using plant-based oils like olive, canola, coconut and choosing things like nuts for snacking and rotating fish like salmon into your protein roundup.

Here’s one that’s, probably, no surprise – reduce your daily sodium intake by choosing foods with less sodium and preparing foods with little or no salt. Recommended daily intake is no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. If you can’t meet this goal right away, even reducing sodium intake by 1,000 mg per day can still benefit blood pressure which your heart will appreciate.

This may all sound daunting, but don’t be concerned. It’s all about balance and moderation. Work on limiting the less beneficial food choices not eliminating them. Even small changes can have heart healthy benefits.

Here are a few meals with the heart in mind to get you started.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Wild Mushrooms and Kale

Korean BBQ-Glazed Salmon with Zoodle Salad

Chickpea and Brown Rice Bowl

Greek Lemon chicken Soup with Orzo

Cauliflower-Chickpea Curry

For more heart healthy meals, check out our Low Sodium Recipe collection on the Savory Recipe Center. 

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