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Colorful fruits and vegetables on a red heart plate

A Heart-Healthy Diet for Valentine’s Day

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. In 2021, about 695,000 people died from heart disease. Despite this, many people don’t take the simple steps they need to keep their heart healthy. Diet is one of the most important adjustable risk factors for heart disease.

Below are some heart-healthy diet choices to help your heart keep beating strongly this Valentine’s Day. Even taking small steps to incorporate better nutrition starts you down the path to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Lean Meat and Fish

If you eat meat, choose lean meats. If making burgers, choose 95% or better lean ground beef (it tastes better, too). Pork tenderloin and skinless chicken or turkey are also good choices. Choose turkey bacon over regular.

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are also good for your heart, with the best options being salmon, tuna and trout. However, be aware that pregnant women and young children should avoid tuna and any fish caught in an area with a fish advisory, due to high levels of mercury that can affect developing children.

Plant-Based Protein

Switch out meat at some meals for plant-based protein such as nuts, seeds, soy products and legumes. All of these are great for your heart and eating less meat is generally good for you and your family. Today, there are several plant-based proteins available in stores and even at some fast food restaurants, if you’re in a pinch.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, kale and cabbage are particularly good for your heart. If you don’t like them, then look for ways to disguise them or mix them with foods you do like. Spinach goes well with strawberries, kale with pomegranate, etc. A smoothie is a great way to get in both leafy greens and your daily dose of fruit.

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats

Not all fats are made equal. Some fats are bad for you, but unsaturated fats are needed by your brain and healthy for your heart. Avoid coconut and palm oil; choose olive oil or corn oil instead. Other good foods include nuts, pine nuts, nut and seed butters, salmon and trout, seeds, avocados and tofu.

Foods to Limit

To enjoy a heart-healthy diet, there are some things you should limit. These include:

  • Salt. Choose low or reduced sodium products and flavor with herbs and spices instead of salt
  • Chicken skin and fatty cuts of meat
  • Whole milk and fatty cheeses
  • Butter, lard, coconut or palm oils
  • Sweetened drinks and snacks
  • Alcohol

If you want to know more about how to improve your overall health this Valentine’s Day, Healthy SD has information on nutrition, physical activity, workplace wellness and more.