American Heart Association Guidelines
In 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) published the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy American Adults. The title is a bit off base: The AHA created the recommendations for all healthy Americans older than two years old.* Here are the guidelines:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially dark green, orange, or yellow—the high-oxidant foods.
- Eat a variety of grain products, especially whole grains.
- Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy products. You can use low-fat cheese and yogurt, fat-free sour cream, fat-free cottage cheese, and reduced- or low-fat milk.
- Make seafood a key part of your diet.
- Include legumes—beans of any sort, from navy and fava to black and green. Beans are rich in protein and soluble fiber—the kind that sweeps away cholesterol before it can clog your arteries.
- Add poultry (skin removed) and lean meats.
- Limit cholesterol-boosters such as saturated fats and trans fatty acids.
Notes: Trans fatty acids are found in vegetable oil that has been mixed with hydrogen, or hydrogenated. The process transforms the unsaturated vegetable oil to a more saturated form, such as solid margarine. Look for foods with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats (for example, olive, canola, and peanut oils) are those that begin to harden when refrigerated. Polyunsaturated fats (for example, safflower, corn, and other oils) always remain completely liquid.
- Limit intake of foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, including foods with high sugar content such as soft drinks or candy.
- Consume less than a level teaspoon (2,400 milligrams) of salt per day.
Notes: People with high blood pressure should consider adhering to the more stringent Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), an eating program created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- Women should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day; men no more than two. (One drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.)
Notes: You may kick up the taste of a few classic recipes by adding a touch of beer, wine, and even bourbon. After all, a little bit of alcohol may be good for you. Not long ago, doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston completed the largest study on alcohol and heart health to date. Their findings: Men who consumed one alcoholic drink three to seven days a week had a much lower risk of heart disease than those who drank less often.
*The AHA's Dietary Guidelines is an eating plan for healthy Americans. For higher-risk individuals—those with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or lipid disorders, for example—the AHA advises following the National Cholesterol Education Program's Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, a form of medical nutrition therapy developed by the National Institutes of Health (www.nhlbi.nih.gov/chd/lifestyles.htm). Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should talk to their healthcare provider, a registered dietitian, or a licensed dietitian or nutritionist about their special dietary needs.