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The 10 rules of a heart-healthy diet

March 1, 2022

The latest guidelines give you the flexibility to create a healthy diet that fits your lifestyle and needs.

assortment of vegetables arranged in the shape of a heart

Eating a healthy diet is a cornerstone of treating and preventing heart disease. That’s easy to understand, but sometimes hard to implement. There’s no one-size-fits-all eating plan that will work for everyone. With that in mind, the American Heart Association updated its dietary guidelines for the first time in 15 years. Rather than listing dos and don’ts of specific nutrients (such as protein or fat), the new guidelines — published online Nov. 2, 2021, by Circulation — focus on healthy eating patterns. As long as you stay within the following rules, you can tailor a heart-healthy diet to your tastes and needs.

1.Balance your calorie intake with physical activity. Weight gain is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and taking in more calories than you burn off leads to weight gain. Talk to a dietitian to find out how many calories you need to eat considering how active you are. It may only require a few tweaks to your diet to have the calories you eat balance the calories you burn during activity. "Maybe you need to reduce fast food and make room for nutritious foods. Or maybe your portions are too large. For instance, your salad might include a cup of beans when a quarter-cup is more appropriate," says Liz Moore, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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About the Author

photo of Heidi Godman

Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman


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