Heart disease has long been one of the leading causes of death in America. One of the best ways to lower your risk of heart disease is following a healthy diet.
What exactly is a healthy diet?
The answer to that question can get complicated since there is plenty of conflicting dietary advice.
The American Heart Association tries to help cut through the confusion by releasing its dietary guidelines. In fact, they recently updated their guidelines for the first time in 15 years.
The new guidelines are very similar to the old ones. The main difference is that it now focuses more on healthy habits than specific food choices.
“The emphasis is on dietary patterns, not specific foods or nutrients. And it’s not just about what people shouldn’t be eating. The focus is really on what people should be eating, so they can customize it to their personal preferences and style.” Alice H. Lichtenstein, D.Sc.
American Heart Association Guidelines
The new AHA guidelines offer nine easy suggestions for improving your heart health.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat plenty and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Choose whole-grain foods and products.
- Choose healthy sources of protein.
- Use liquid plant oils.
- Choose minimally processed foods.
- Minimize beverages and foods with added sugars.
- Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
- Limit alcohol intake.
One big takeaway is that the new guidelines talk about limiting things, but don't use the word avoid. It's more about making good choices consistently, not demanding perfection. That makes the guidelines much easier to follow.
If you struggle with any of these recommendations, you can start small. There is nothing wrong with making small improvements then building from there.
Any healthy habits help you in the long run. Once something becomes a habit, you will continue to reap the benefits of it for the rest of your life with very little effort.
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