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Recipe for Heart Health

Eating a healthy, low-cholesterol, low-fat diet can considerably reduce your risk of heart attack. It's a good idea to develop a pattern of eating that will fill your stomach without damaging your heart, but sometimes it's hard to figure out which foods are good for you.

Some Tips
To lower your blood cholesterol levels, you need to cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. Less than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from any type of fat with less than 10 percent coming from saturated fat. In addition, keep your cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol or you have a diagnosed high blood cholesterol level, you should take a more vigorous approach to your diet. You should restrict your daily cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams, and less than seven percent of your daily total calories should be from saturated fat.

Where Fats & Cholesterol Hide
Saturated fat increases your blood cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet, making it incredibly important to trim it from your diet. Most of the saturated fat you eat probably comes from animal products. Dairy products made from whole milk -- including butter, cheese, milk, cream, and ice cream -- and the fat in meat and poultry skin contain very high amounts of saturated fat. There are also some vegetables that are high in saturated fats, including coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil, and palm oil. Unlike saturated fats, cholesterol is found only in foods that come from animals. You can redesign your daily diet by cutting back on these types of foods.

Dish Up a Healthy Heart
There are lots of things that you can eat that will help improve your overall health and reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack. It's possible to replace many of your favorite high-fat foods with healthy alternatives.

Instead of meats like sausage, bacon, and processed high-fat cold cuts, eat fish, poultry, and leaner cuts of meat, but be sure to remove the fat and skin before eating. It's ok to eat up to six ounces of these daily. You should also cut down on organ meats, such as liver, kidney, and brains.

You can also give your dairy diet a makeover that will put you on the track to good health. Drink skim or one percent milk instead of whole milk and eat nonfat or low-fat cheese and yogurt. Replace butter with margarine (the softer the less saturated fat) or vegetable oil. Substituting egg whites, which are cholesterol and fat free, for whole eggs or egg yolks will also help improve your heart health.

The way you prepare your food also affects its nutritional value. It's better to broil, bake, roast, or poach your foods than to fry them. Vegetable oils are great to use instead of butter for sautéing vegetables. When purchasing pre-packaged foods, be sure to read the label and buy those that are lowest in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. And, use all fats, oils, and sweets sparingly.

What to Eat
A heart healthy, balanced diet should include foods from the basic food groups. You should try to eat six to 11 servings daily of breads, cereals, rice, and pasta; three to five daily servings of vegetables; two to four daily fruits servings; two to three servings daily of milk, yogurt, and cheese; and two to three servings daily of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Your diet should focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains cereals, breads, rice, and pasta. With a little effort, you can start cooking up healthy and delicious meals in no time.

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